Daniel Auer, Johanna Gereke, Max Schaub
Spiritual practices predict migration behavior

Scientific reports, 2023: 13, (article no. 12535), pp. 1-7
ISSN: 2045-2322 (online)

Each year, several thousand migrants from sub-Saharan Africa lose their lives attempting to reach Europe’s southern shores. Social scientists and policymakers have puzzled over the question of why so many people are willing to take this extremely high risk of dying. Drawing on panel data from over 10,000 individuals collected over the course of 1 year in The Gambia—a country with one of the highest emigration rates in the world—we show that consulting a local healer for spiritual protection predicts migration outcomes. Furthermore, we find that spiritual practices are strongly associated with a decreased perception of one’s own risk of dying on the migration journey. Our findings demonstrate the relevance of ideational factors in explaining risky migration choices, and point to spiritual leaders as important interlocutors for migration policy makers.