Who Matters Most? Migrant Networks, Tie Strength, and First Rural-Urban Migration to Dakar

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date







Internal migration; Migrant networks; Social capital; Social networks


Social networks' influence on migration has long been explored largely through the lenses of cumulative causation and social capital theory. This article aims to reconceptualize elements of these theories for the case of rural-urban migration and test their utility in explaining first-migration timing. We use a uniquely extensive social network survey linked to prospectively collected migration data in rural Senegal. We decompose migrant networks into return migrants, current migrants, and nonmigrant residents of the destination to capture heterogeneity in migration-relevant social capital. As expected, the number of nonmigrant alters living in the capital, Dakar, has an outsized association with the migration hazard, the number of current migrants from the village living in Dakar has a smaller association, and the number of return migrants has little association. Drawing on social capital theory, we test the influence of (1) subjectively assessed tie strength between the ego and their network alters and (2) structurally weak ties measured through second-order ("friend of a friend") connections. Weak and strong subjective ties to current migrants and nonmigrant Dakar residents are positively associated with the first-migration hazard. Structurally weak ties to current migrants are too, but only for individuals with no direct ties to current migrants.


Global Health