Article II. Rural migration to the Costa Rican frontier: understanding migrant motivations for migration and migrant quality of life
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Frontiers are unstable; both spatially and economically they are situated at the margins of national and world economies. The nature of these places makes frontier migration a risky endeavor for individuals and their families, yet this form of migration remains largely ignored in migration research. This article utilizes a household ethno-survey to track and describe migration dynamics in the northern frontier of Costa Rica and the subsequent improvements or decreases in migrant quality of life. Data reveal that both international and internal migrants came in two major flows to the Costa Rican frontier. Migrants to Costa Rica were initially motivated by land availability, and then by growing labor opportunities, cheaper housing and lower costs of living. The most recent migrants came seeking the various environmental amenities found in the Costa Rican frontier. Generally, young and maturing households experience higher quality of life as measured by income, demographic variables and education when established on the frontier, as compared to mature households, who despite their extended duration on the frontier, later life stage and land resources experience a lower quality of life. Understanding how different types of families fare and persist in these frontiers is a critical step toward exploring how rural development evolves on a human and household level and toward understanding how to mitigate frontier migration’s negative human and ecological outcomes.