Policy Article

Does Foreign Aid Reduce Migration?


  • Fuchs
  • A.
  • Groeger
  • A.
  • Heidland
  • T.
  • Wellner
  • L.
Publication Date

The widespread use of foreign aid to address the “root causes” of irregular migration lacks a robust empirical foundation. In a new study (Fuchs, A., A. Groeger, T. Heidland, and L. Wellner (2023). The Effect of Foreign Aid on Migration: Global Micro-Evidence from World Bank Projects. Kiel Working Paper 2257) that we summarize here for a wider audience, we provide the first comprehensive causal analysis that examines micro-level evidence across all developing countries that received assistance from the World Bank between 2008 and 2019. Our analysis is the first to disentangle the impacts of foreign aid on various aspects of migration: individuals’ aspirations, capabilities, and actual migration patterns. In alignment with the notion of utilizing aid to mitigate the root causes of irregular migration, our study reveals that the announcements and disbursements of new aid projects significantly reduce people’s migration aspirations. This effect is temporary in nature and is notably absent in fragile countries. Over the longer term, the critical factor is whether aid ultimately enhances living conditions. Our findings provide some evidence supporting this, as improvements in living conditions bolster individuals’ capabilities. This can lead to increased migration, yet the notable difference is that these individuals tend to follow regular channels for migration. These findings hold substantial significance for policymakers and those involved in foreign aid allocation that we discuss towards the end of this policy brief.

Kiel Institute Experts


Key Words

  • Migration
  • Foreign Aid
  • Root Causes
  • Irregular Migration
  • Refugees
  • Asylum
  • Development