Mapping evidence to address root causes and drivers of irregular migration

Massive irregular migration continues, along with more migrant tragedies. While interventions seeking to address its root causes have grown, there is limited evidence of their effectiveness. Further, there is an absence of research that examines the existing evidence base, which means we do not know which interventions effectively address irregular migration and risk factors, which lack supporting evidence, or where evidence is scarce. 3ie’s ongoing research supported by USAID and IOM aims to fill essential knowledge gaps for irregular migration programming in Guatemala as well as for global policymaking.

Mapping evidence to address root causes and drivers of irregular migration

3ie is producing two studies as part of a subgrant under the IOM-Guatemala/USAID project on Addressing the Root Causes of the Irregular Migration in Guatemala. This project aims to generate evidence and connect Guatemalans to evidence-informed opportunities to achieve prosperous, secure, and dignified lives in their communities by reducing irregular migration. The objectives of this research are 1) to identify the landscape of available empirical evidence on the effectiveness of programs addressing the root causes of irregular migration and 2) to identify a domain in the landscape where a substantial amount of research is available and synthesize its results so findings can be utilized by policymakers and practitioners.

We are using systematic search and screening strategies to map the global evidence base of effectiveness research. An evidence gap map (EGM) and targeted synthesis study to be made publicly available by August 2023 will inform the project and answer pressing global policy and research questions about what works to address irregular migration.

We have conducted a scoping search to identify relevant references for the project’s conceptualization. From this literature, the team put together a comprehensive list of root causes and drivers of irregular migration and the interventions that are used to address them. The framework is based on that list while an advisory group helped prioritize the root causes based on policy relevance and proximity between the intervention and migration decisions. In consultation with the advisory group and the funders, we have finalized the interventions as well as the outcomes frameworks (see table below). A scoping search was also used to identify a sample of impact evaluations for each intervention in the framework and we used these to extract key terms to inform our search strategy. 

Although this activity does not involve any outreach to beneficiary populations, our analysis will adopt an equity-sensitive approach. Among other things, studies will be coded on the research population to identify studies focusing on specific ethnicities or minority populations. This will allow users of the evidence gap map to easily filter studies by relevant equity dimensions.

This protocol establishes the scope and methods to be used in this EGM. We define root causes of irregular migration as social, economic, or political conditions in the countries of origin, such as poverty and repression, which might induce irregular, unorderly, or unsafe departures. These root causes are considered ‘drivers’ of irregular migration.

We are currently seeking studies that evaluate the effectiveness of the below interventions in relation to final and intermediate migration or forced displacement outcomes. 

Read the protocol

Root cause/driver Intervention domain
Limited economic and decent work opportunities Increasing economic and decent work opportunities
Inability of households and communities to adapt to, mitigate, or recover from covariate shocks or stressors due to diminished resilience Strengthening resilience against shocks and stressors
Violence or crime creating insecure and unsafe communities Combating violence, conflict, and insecurity
Drivers that increase movement through irregular pathways Safe and orderly migration management through information campaigns (labor rights, labor exploitation, legal alternatives and increasing legal pathways in destination countries)