Refugees: On the Economics of Political Migration

22 Pages Posted: 30 May 2007 Last revised: 13 Dec 2016

Date Written: 2009


Unless literally forced to leave, prospective refugees have a choice between staying and flight, subject to constraints, particularly the willingness of a country to grant asylum. Although all options may be unpleasant, they nonetheless represent alternatives amenable to economic analysis, The incentive to flee is a function of threat severity and credibility, and the attractiveness of available safe havens. The theoretical analysis suggests that restrictive asylum policies have little impact on demand for asylum, except in the interplay with other factors, such a costs of flight and retribution against unsuccessful refugees. While the case of bogus refugees has received much attention in the popular literature, this article shows that threatened individuals may choose emigration instead of flight if there are repercussions associated with refugee status. The article also analyzes the case of bogus refugees.

Keywords: Bogus Refugees, Threat Severity, Threat Credibility, Threat Credibility Threshold, Potential Refugee Loss, Compromise and Accommodation, Asylum

JEL Classification: F5, K33, R23

Suggested Citation

Schaeffer, Peter V., Refugees: On the Economics of Political Migration (2009). International Migration, Vol. 41, No. 8, 2009, Available at SSRN: or

Peter V. Schaeffer (Contact Author)

West Virginia University ( email )

P.O. Box 6108
Morgantown, WV 26506-6108
United States
304-293-5572 (Phone)
304-293-3752 (Fax)


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