Intra-European migration decisions and welfare systems: the missing life course link

Petra W. de Jong*, Helga A. G. de Valk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


Welfare systems are often perceived as key for migration decisions. Yet traditional international migration theories usually include this factor as rather static in nature and do not acknowledge the dynamic interaction with the individual life course. This is unfortunate, as the impact of macro-level circumstances on individual migration decisions may vary over a person's life, particularly for factors that are intrinsically connected to the life course, as is the case with the welfare system. In this study, we propose an innovative conceptual model which fruitfully combines insights from migration theories with principles of the life course approach. Using qualitative interview data from 36 European citizens born in Poland, Spain and the UK and residing in the Netherlands, we investigated how welfare systems are perceived and experienced at the individual level, and how these perceptions, knowledge and practices may enter migration decisions. Our study empirically underpins the main premise of the theoretical model that migration decisions and the factors shaping them should be explained as connected through the life course. The proposed conceptual model is suitable to explain the influence of welfare systems on migration decisions, but also that of other structural factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1773-1791
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of ethnic and migration studies
Issue number9
Early online date10-May-2019
Publication statusPublished - 3-Jul-2020


  • Life course perspective
  • intra-European migration
  • migration decision-making
  • welfare system

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