Emigration: leaving through necessity or by choice?

The Irish Times headline on Saturday 17 March: “Emigrants ‘leaving by choice’” is probably one of the most misleading I have read in some time.

The contents of the article do not support the headline - we find that the Irish Times/MRBI poll on which the piece is based establishes that in fact a substantial 41% of those surveyed felt that they were forced to emigrate.

Secondly the methodology used to conduct the research is questionable to say the least. One wonders what the motivation could be for such a positive headline when reporting on an event that is so devastating for so many people.

Today I said goodbye to my second son, who has left behind a partner and son to take up an offer of employment in America following 18 months of unemployment. He leaves behind two devastated families.

On further examination of the survey a number of serious question arise. First, the make-up of the sample group raises some serious questions. 60% of the emigrants surveyed were educated to degree level or above. The CSO’s Quarterly Household Survey for December 2011 shows that only 37% of 15-44 year olds hold third level degrees or higher.

The headline suggestion that the survey is generalisable to a wider population of all emigrants is also questionable. The type of sampling used was non-probability sampling - which limits the researcher’s ability to generalise (Schutt, 2009), though the headline obviously tries to do just that.

The second point in relation the use of purposive sampling is that best practice would suggest that you continue to interview until you are confident that you are learning little that is new from subsequent interviews (Schutt, 2009). When you consider the make-up of the sample population in this survey (60% educated to degree level or above) this should at least raise some questions in relation to the findings and whether you anything new could be learned from further interviewing of a wider and more representative sample group.

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