What leads people seeking refuge from violence to select one country over another? One view of refugees as forced migrants suggests that they will flee to the nearest safe space. Another view of refugees as opportunists suggests that they will flee to the most free, wealthiest countries. We use a global sample of over 600,000 directed-dyad-years to test hypotheses concerning refugees' destination choices. Our findings show that while violence in the origin country produces flows, human rights violations and civil war in asylum countries have little impact on asylum choices, though refugees avoid genocides and foreign soldiers. The structure of political institutions and wage opportunities in the country of origin both influence refugees' decision to leave, yet neither political institutions nor potential wages affect the choice of where to seek refuge. The factors that impact asylum choices the most are proximity and the presence of family and friends.
Shellman, Stephen, and Will H. Moore. 2007. "Whither Will They Go." International Studies Quarterly (January): 811-834. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=707784