Expanding access to education is a universal aim of development policy, and children are entering formal schooling at unprecedented levels. Taking Ethiopia as a case study, we explore the influence of primary and secondary educational attainment on the migration aspirations of young people. Using novel survey data collected among rural and urban Ethiopian youth from the Young Lives project, we find that completing even primary levels of education increases the aspiration to live elsewhere. Formal education appears to be one important driver of a broader aspirational shift away from rural, agrarian livelihoods toward urban, professional futures. By studying the linkages between educational attainment and internal and international migration aspirations—alongside other development indicators like wealth, employment, and levels of self-efficacy—our findings contribute to an ongoing debate about the relationship between migration and development and challenge common assumptions that migration is simply driven by poverty and need in poorer countries.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.