World Food Programme: Charting a New Regional Course of Action: Motivations and Costs of Central American Migration

The World Food Programme (WFP) in conjunction with the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used RIWI’s technology in conjunction with face-to-face surveys, to measure public opinion on migration desires, plans, motivations, and preparations of families and individuals ages 16+ in Central America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to make the survey findings nationally representative, RIWI collected a minimum number of 90 observations in each of the 54 departments across El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras from May 31st to June 30th, 2021. RIWI surveyed more than 6,000 individual respondents in these countries, providing unique insight into the various factors that lead people to consider and/or decide to migrate, as well as the costs and economic implications of migration for households and communities throughout the region. These surveys captured a snapshot of migration patterns in order to better understand changes in migration drivers and individual migration experiences during the height of a global pandemic.

Key findings in this study revealed that:

  1. Across the 3 countries, 35 percent of respondents reported that their income was insufficient to meet their basic needs.
  2. Respondents to RIWI’s online survey expressed an increased intention of migration internationally than respondents to the household survey, while both surveys revealed similar findings among those who had premeditated plans and preparations for migration.
  3. Intentions to migrate internationally varied by levels of hunger reported by respondents. Although the desire to migrate consistently stood around 70 percent for respondents independent of their level of hunger, respondents with higher levels of hunger reported planning and preparing to migrate at higher levels.
  4. Across the three countries, 37 percent of all respondents experiencing severe hunger made plans to migrate compared to 18 percent of those who experienced little to no hunger. Furthermore, 23 percent of all respondents experiencing severe hunger reported having prepared to migrate compared to 7 percent of those experiencing little to no hunger.
chart showing intentions to migrate