No One Leaves Home for a Simple Reason:

No One Leaves Home for a Simple Reason:

Addressing Root Causes of Migration with Crowdsourced Data


By Alexandra Wilson, Communications Specialist, and Bethany Ford, Data Scientist
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More migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras crossed or attempted to cross the border in the first half of 2021 than in all of 2020.1 

While COVID-19 may have slowed migration in 2020, it was temporary, and the numbers are rising again. 

We know that the broad root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle countries are difficult socioeconomic and security conditions, exacerbated by natural disasters and poor governance. We also know that nobody leaves their home for a simple reason. 

Premise asked Contributors: “Which of the following reasons best describes why you want to relocate or emigrate?”

Crowdsourcing data can tell us in more detail what is happening on the ground, where, and most importantly, how to effect real change. 

Premise Global Index Data Shows Troubling Trends

In environments like the Northern Triangle, where conditions and sentiments change rapidly, crowdsourced data can provide a window into what is changing as it changes. We can see from Premise’s Global Index Data, for example, that in Guatemala, approval of the government’s ability to provide citizens with a satisfactory standard of living has declined, from 23% of respondents disapproving in April 2020 to 45% in July 2021.

How much do you agree with the following: “Currently, the national government enables citizens to have a satisfactory standard of living.”

The Premise platform can be used to monitor other conditions that might influence migratory movement, such as food prices, crop health, and disaster preparedness. Our Global Index data reveals that an average of 43% of Contributors in the Northern Triangle countries report having to reduce food consumption in the past month due to limited resources. 

In the past month, did your household at any time need to reduce its food consumption due to limited resources?

The Premise Platform is also used for custom data collection on such topics across the region, including monitoring civil unrest in Colombia and food consumption patterns in Venezuela to help our clients better understand the operating environment. 

Leveraging Crowdsourced Data for Activity Design, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Northern Triangle

Premise offers an innovative platform that can help international development organizations collect the data needed to develop more effective projects and programs. A recent Premise task—completed in just two days—gave us fifty geolocations and photos of empty lots in and around San Salvador. Such data—proxy indicators of gang influence—can be used to target remedial activities.

Left: Geolocations of empty lots in and around San Salvador. Right: A Contributor photo of an empty lot.

While most international development organizations rely on quarterly or bi-annual progress reports from third party program implementers, Premise can provide ongoing insight into project progress and efficacy. Contributors can be tasked with validating project activities with photos and geolocations and answering questions about observed changes and/or sentiments as a result of a project or policy. 

Better Data Drives Better Outcomes

With the inherent complexity of the causes of migration and the difficulty in finding solutions that work, obtaining detailed data to inform decisions can be a game-changer. The situation in the Northern Triangle is not uniform throughout the three countries, nor is it at the department level nor among different segments of the population. The matter of how and where international development programs can work to reduce inequality, promote upward mobility and create safer environments will therefore require a deep and evolving understanding of life on the ground. 

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1 Congressional Research Service. (2021, April). Central American Migration: Root Causes and U.S. Policy. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF11151.pdf