Personality traits, migration intentions, and cultural distance

Didier Fouarge, Merve Nezihe Özer, Philipp Seegers

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paper

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Personality traits are influential in individual decision-making but have been overlooked in economic models of migration. This paper investigates the relation between Big Five personality traits and individuals’ migration intentions among alternative destinations that vary in their culture distance. We hypothesize that Big Five personality traits may alter individuals’ migration decision and destination choice through their influence on perceived psychic costs and benefits of migration. We test our hypotheses using the Fachkraft survey conducted among university students in Germany. We find that extraversion and openness are positively associated with migration intentions, while agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability negatively relate to migration intentions. We show that openness positively and extraversion negatively relate to the willingness to move to culturally distant countries even when we control for geographic distance and economic differences between countries. Using language as a cultural distance indicator provides evidence that extravert individuals are less likely to prefer linguistically distant countries while agreeable individuals are more inclined to consider such countries as alternative destinations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

SeriesROA Research Memoranda

JEL classifications

  • d91 - "Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving"
  • j61 - "Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers"
  • z10 - Cultural Economics


  • migration intention
  • destination choice
  • cultural distance
  • Big Five personality traits


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