Our study's information interventions are inspired by those that have been funded by European governments, many of which focus on features of the (often harrowing) migration journey. Migration decisions are believed to involve a weighing of risks, and the objective of our treatments is to provide factual, truthful information about the many risks involved in attempting irregular migration along the Mediterranean Route. Our design includes two waves of treatments, described below.
Intervention 1: Comprehensive information treatment
We provide a set of treated households in Nigeria with a realistic summary of the chances of successfully reaching Europe and the risks of irregular migration, with an emphasis on the risk of death, injury, exposure to sexual violence, and enslavement along the migrant trail across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea. The relevant control group does not receive this information from us. This treatment is delivered in the form of an in-person script and a video message with testimonials from migrant returnees, who attempted the journey but did not reach Europe and were repatriated. The treatment also includes an active processing component designed to ensure subject engagement and to help overcome motivated reasoning.
The informational content builds on qualitative and survey research carried out in Edo state's capital, Benin City, in 2018, which suggested high levels of uncertainty and widespread misinformation about irregular migration-related risks along the Mediterranean route. This prior work suggests that the information provided in intervention 1 is (a) not already widely known and (b) is relevant for migration-related decision-making in our research setting.
This treatment is comprehensive and intense in order to enable us to see whether this kind of information intervention can lead to sustained, long-term, behavioral change. This remains an important open question and one that is particularly relevant for practitioners, as our script mirrors components of existing policy initiatives. However, it means that we will not be able to assess the efficacy of any one particular statement of fact. We partially separate elements of this treatment in our second intervention described below. All of the facts mentioned are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time the script was written, and we indicate sources as they were provided to subjects upon request.
Intervention 2: Decomposition experiment
We implement a second experiment with a smaller group of subjects beyond the scope of intervention 1, in which we treat individuals with only one set of components of the information treatment. These sets of components are:
(1) Factual information, including a detailed, fact-heavy script focusing on the risks of the migration journey and the likelihood of being granted asylum in Europe, as shown above;
(2) Factual information in combination with a motivated reasoning exercise, designed to overcome a bias toward optimism in how individuals assess risk when they face it personally as opposed to when other comparable individuals do;
(3) Emotionally charged content, delivered by way of a video of interviews with migrant returnees, who attempted the irregular migration journey but did not reach Europe.
Each of these treatments is delivered to individuals by way of a preset video. A fourth subset of individuals functions as control group and does not receive any of these materials.