Thoughts, Engagements, and Updates

27 Aug 2018

Why are educated migrants dissatisfied with their host countries?


Our recent study on the sense of place attitudes of African migrants in Dutch society, published in the Journal of Community Psychology, suggests that educated migrants are less attached to their host country. The study reveals the negative relationship between the level of education and attachment to place among migrants of African background, with weak attachment to Dutch society expressed by educated African residents compared to those with a high school education or less educational attainment. It appears that education background is an important theme in terms of understanding the dynamics of migration and sense of belonging among Africans in the diaspora.

Although our study result may fit into several interpretations, but one reason for the weak ties to a host country among educated migrants is their education-occupation mismatch and economic disadvantage in an international labor market where race and ethnicity matter. Compared with low‐educated migrants, it is expected that educated migrants benefit less from migration because of their economic disadvantage and lack of opportunities in the fields of their educational qualification, often a result of racial and socio-cultural backgrounds and employment hierarchies associated with ethnicity, among other reasons. The more educated Africans become in a host community, the more likely it is for them to experience place dissatisfaction or fewer ties to that society because of a lack of opportunities in the areas of their qualification, compared with those who are less educated and willing to take any job offer.

Another interpretation could be the effect of transnationalism, which may be fostered by a higher education, where the labor market is global rather than local, in that the education obtained in developing African countries is often not recognized by employers in a Western society. Other issues to consider are workplace discrimination including expecting to produce twice or more than their native counterparts or colleagues to be recognized or promoted and occupying positions not commensurate with their qualification.

Educated migrants may also tend to keep strong ties with their home country to maximize their chance of returning to high positions and better jobs or increased political involvement. This is common sense since there comes a time in life when we all feel a sense of responsibility to give back to our communities, even though this feat might be difficult to attain in most cases due to the mediocre political and economic climate in the continent.

Education background of migrants remains an important topic for understanding the diverse narratives of African migrants and how this impact on their sense of belonging and mental health in a host country. The sense of place dissatisfaction in or withdrawal from a host-country among educated migrants is likely to be because of the education-occupation mismatch and economic disadvantage in an international labor market where race and ethnicity take precedence over merit. The different lived experiences between educated and uneducated migrants surely indicate something deeper about social status, migration, and the role of social diversity in promoting a sense of belonging among non‐natives. Adequate attention should be given to the stories of educated migrants and how their experiences in host-countries affect their overall sense of belonging and mental health.



Counted, V., Moustafa, A., & Renzaho, A. (2018). Migration and sociodemographic factors associated with sense of place attitudes among migrants of African background in Northern and Western Netherlands. Journal of Community Psychology (Download PDF)

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