Research Case Study

2000 Families: The true impact of migration

Is migration beneficial? 2000 Families compares the lives of migrants and non-migrants across generations.

  • Tagged under

    Economy, business, politics and society
    Global perspectives and challenges

  • Lead Academic

    Dr Ayse Guveli

What happened to hundreds of Turkish men who left their homeland for a better life in the middle of the twentieth century? What about those who chose to stay behind?

Dr Ayse Guveli, from our Department of Sociology, and her team have been piecing together their stories, providing incredible insights into the nature of migration.

“Migration is a life-changing experience not only for migrants themselves but also for those left behind. Our unique approach and the unprecedented data we have collected from 2,000 Turkish families and their 50,000 family members reveals the true impact of migration across many aspects of their lives,” explained Dr Guveli.

Migration and the social, economic and cultural integration of migrants and their families are some of the most important issues facing the world today. Yet gaps remain in our understanding of why some families chose to migrate and the effects of that migration on them and future generations. Until now, no large-scale comparisons across multiple generations existed between those families who had chosen to migrate and those who had chosen to stay in their countries of origin. ‘2000 Families: Migration histories of Turks in Europe’, led by Dr Guveli has changed that.

2000 Families is an unprecedented study that has interviewed some 50,000 Turkish people – both migrants and non-migrants about their education, jobs, marriage, religion, friendships and family, and attitudes to gender and tradition. It begins with 2,000 Turkish men born between 1920 and 1945 from five distinct regions in Turkey. It then tracks the journeys of 1,600 of them to nine European countries and continues to follow their lives and those of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It also follows the lives of the remaining 400 men who could have migrated but chose not to and compares their lives with those who left.

Why focus on Turkey?

It’s estimated that more than five million people of Turkish descent live in Western Europe, making it one of the largest migrant groups in Europe. The fact that it is so large makes it of real interest, because research shows that the larger the migrant group, the slower the integration process.

Who fared better - those who migrated or those who stayed?

Initial findings from this study show that migrants and their descendants do benefit from moving to Europe. Migrants and their three generations of descendants have higher educations and occupational status. They are also less likely to be in an arranged marriage, tend to have fewer children and demonstrate more female friendly attitudes.

However, these differences between those who stayed and those who migrated decrease in the second generation and almost disappear by the third, which would seem to illustrate the modernisation that has taken place in Turkey over the last century.

The research also shows the migrants’ attachment to their home country’s culture and traditions decreased over time.

Painting the bigger picture

This study shows how important and enlightening it is to compare migrants with non-migrants, rather than only with natives in the destination country.

“Because we collected information from those who left, those who stayed and those who returned, this detailed and rich information can help us understand much better who benefits and who loses in the migration process. We also gain a much better understanding of the impact that moving has on people’s attitudes and beliefs,” said Dr Guveli.

The project also illustrates how things change over time and the importance of looking across generations, as the accompanying book shows.

Research team
  • Dr Ayse Guveli, Department of Sociology, University of Essex (Principal Investigator)

Full 2000 Families research team list