FEMISE MED BRIEF n°2 : Emigration and culture in the MENA: Implications for sending and receiving countries

December 22, 2017
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This policy brief, written by Pr. Frédéric Docquier (Université Catholique de Louvain) looks at the issue of emigration and culture in the MENA countries. Emigrants from the MENA region self-select on cultural traits. Those who intend to emigrate to OECD, high-income countries exhibit significantly lower levels of religiosity than the rest of the population. They also share more gender-egalitarian views, although this effect only holds for the young (aged 15 to 30), for single women, and in countries with a Sunni minority. On the aggregate, the effects of cultural selection should not be overestimated. First, emigration hardly affects the distribution of cultural traits in the MENA countries. Second, it has a limited (albeit non negligible) effect on the cultural distance between natives and immigrants in the OECD countries. For countries mostly affected by Arab Spring, the degree of cultural selection has decreased since 2011, with potential implications for the integration at destination.