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Regular version of the site

Young People Migrate to Cities with Good Reputation

The opportunity to find an interesting and well-paid job, a comfortable socio-cultural environment, and friendly and professional contacts in the new location are all essential factors for graduates of universities from Russian regions who are planning to move to another city. Saida Ziganurova, Research Assistant at the HSE Center for Institutional Studies, studied the migration potential among young professionals.

The economic advantages of moving to another city, such as higher living standards and the opportunity to find a well-paid job, are key, but they are not the only attractive factor for graduates of regional universities. Another two conditions that add to young professionals’ positive impressions of the new location are social and psychological comfort (security and tolerance in the new community) and the city’s cultural atmosphere. These findings were presented by Saida Ziganurova in her paper ‘Graduates of regional universities as a migration potential: motives and the choice of destination’ at the National Research Conference in Memory of Yury Levada ‘Contemporary Russian society and sociology’, which took place at HSE.

The study was based on the data of a survey among senior students in 2013 gathered as part of the HSE Institute for Social Development Studies Centre of Migration Policy project. Undergraduate and master’s students from five regional centres, Kaliningrad, Kemerovo, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, and Ufa, were surveyed. The sample included 1658 respondents.

Quarter of respondents is planning to move

Figure 1 shows the level of mobility among graduates in the five cities. Migration plans were detected by the following question: ‘Where are you going to live after graduation?’ Exactly half of the respondents declared that they were going to stay in the same city where they had studied. About a quarter (23%) of graduates are planning to move. Of them, 14% are going to move to another Russian city, and 9% - abroad.

There are no significant differences in terms of gender or type of education (state-funded or fee-paying) between the ‘settled’ and ‘mobile’ young professionals. Previous experience of migration is an important factor: there are more students planning to move among those students who have already moved from their hometown in order to study..

The author revealed a correlation between a desire to migrate and the city of graduation. Graduates from Kemerovo are less likely to leave the city as compared to other cities. Taking into account the geographical position, it is logical that in Kaliningrad, there is the biggest share of graduates who want to emigrate and the smallest share of those willing to move to another Russian city, the researcher noticed.

Return migration (the flow of those who are going to move back to their home city) is lowest in Perm. There are many more potential migrants, including return migrants, in Ufa. At the same time, the share of those planning to move to another country is the lowest in Ufa. This means that Ufa contains the biggest pool of internal mobility among the surveyed cities.

Cities are attractive due to living standards and cultural associations

Key motives for the move were detected by means of the following question: ‘Why are you going to move to this specific city/country?’ The respondents could choose no more than three reasons. The following answers were in the top three: ‘I can find an interesting job there’ (32%), ‘I can expect a good salary there’ (32%), ‘It is my dream city’ (21%).

It’s interesting that the motivation ‘There is a demand for professionals in my field’ is not very popular (about 12%). This means that an interesting job is a priority, and not necessarily connected to the area of study.

So, the key motivation factors for the move are often economic, but at the same time, the image of the city and related socio-cultural associations are also important.

The power of atmosphere

Factor analysis allowed the researcher to evaluate the locations’ attractiveness for potential migrants.

The first detected factor is again related to socio-economic conditions in the city, such as job, salary, living standards, as well as cultural environment and tolerance (this factor makes the biggest impact on general variance – 33%). It’s interesting that these varied characteristics of the potential migration destination co-exist in one factor. According to the researcher, this is a sign of a kind of ‘integrated’ reputation of the destination city, its wealth in a broader sense. There is general perception of potential destinations, based on socio-economic and cultural characteristics.

The second factor is related to security and satisfactory conditions both in terms of ecology and social environment. The researcher defines this factor as ‘comfort’ (23%).

The third factor is associated with social capital (16%) – presence of friends, family and professional contacts, which facilitate the adaptation in the new city.

Two capitals as dream cities

Those who are going to move to Moscow choose this city for good salary and marriage opportunities and also evaluate their professional contacts as good ones. In other words, the choice of Moscow is determined by career or family plans.

‘The choice of St. Petersburg is related to this city’s image as a safe and tolerant one’, Ziganurova noticed, ‘And the motivation for the choice of this city is complicated – this is a “dream city”’. It means that in case of St. Petersburg young people choose this city as a special destination, not due to the opportunities it offers.

The researcher concludes that Moscow is seen as a city to pursue career plans, while St. Petersburg is perceived in terms of comfortable city conditions. Such attitudes are in line with existing stereotypes about these cities, Ziganurova believes.

Graduates on the move are mainly driven by economical motivation, but socio-cultural reputation of the city, its atmosphere and lifestyle are also important, the scholar concluded.


Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, August 25, 2015