Mobility trajectories of young lives: life chances of transnational youth in Global South and North

Mobility trajectories of young lives (MO-TRAYL) is a five year research project (2017-2021) which aims to develop a better understanding of the relation between migration and young people’s life chances.

In today’s globalised world, young people from all over the globe have migration as part of their biographies, because they migrated themselves or because at least one of their parents did. To date, it has been assumed that their movement patterns are rather straightforward and linear; either they accompany their parents when they migrate and thus move once, or they stay behind and do not move at all. This conception of youth mobility, however, is overly simplified and does not do justice to the experiences of young people with migrant background. As a result, little is known about how migration impacts young people in the medium-term. Over the next five years, the MO-TRAYL research team will fill the gap.

Mobility trajectories
We will break new ground by studying so-called mobility trajectories: the geographical moves in space and time that youth and their family members engage in, resulting in changing family constellations over a youth’s life course. This means that we will map young people’s physical movements, thereby taking into account those family members or caregivers that have been of significant influence on the youth’s life. As is known from previous research, family is very important to understanding young people’s life chances. How those life chances - defined as educational outcomes, psychosocial well-being, and transitions into adulthood - are affected by different mobility trajectories is the central focus of our research.

    Research design
    MO-TRAYL is a large-scale, comparative research project. We study youth (aged 15-25 years) in four countries:

    • The Netherlands
    • Belgium
    • Germany
    • Ghana

    In this manner we are able to investigate how mobility trajectories, and consequently life chance outcomes, are shaped and influenced by different school systems and migration regimes.

    Unlike many other studies, we collect data directly from young people. We do this firstly by means of a school survey, which enables us to study the mobility trajectories of both migrant and non-migrant youth. In a second stage, we zoom in on youth with Ghanaian background. We study young Ghanaians in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, as well as in Ghana. This makes it possible to compare Ghanaian migrant youth to Ghanaian youth who have stayed in the origin country. MO-TRAYL is the first large-scale study of youth of migrant background to include both so-called migrant origin and receiving countries.

    What can we expect from MO-TRAYL? 
    Our research will enable us to:

    • identify different types of mobility trajectories
    • understand how mobility trajectories affect specific youth outcomes
    • inform policymakers and teachers on how secondary schools can best deal with youth mobility
    • inform policymakers on how different migration policies affect youth outcomes ​

    Research results can be found under Publications

    Download the MO-TRAYL information brochure by clicking on the image below: 










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