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What if we could use a Socially-defined Measure of Migration-Specific Social Capital?

A great deal of migration research has focused on the importance of migration-specific social capital, the collection of social network ties to past migrants that minimize the risks of individual movement and accelerate the process of out-migration from a community to a specific destination. Up to now, lacking detailed data on social connections to past migrants, most studies have measured migration-specific social capital by aggregating prior migration reports to the level of a convenient contextual unit such as a spatial block or an administrative community. Vital registration data offer a socially-observed alternative for measuring migration-specific social capital as a way to test the assumptions of contextual-level measures and to more precisely measure how particular individuals and households benefit from past migration. Using 22 years of migration histories from the Matlab Health and Demographic Surveillance System (MHDSS), collected in a rural area of Bangladesh since 1974, I estimate a household's migration-specific social capital from the accumulated stock and flow of migration not among households in a particular spatial or administrative context, but among those households and families linked to them through past internal migration or intermarriage. A model of subsequent migration behavior compares the predictive power of these social measures of migrant social capital against contextually-defined measures, and considers the statistical value-added against obvious costs.