A newer version of this paper was published on Demography, August 2008.
This paper investigates how migrant social capital differentially influences individuals’ migration and cumulatively generates divergent outcomes for communities. To combine the fragmented findings in the literature, the paper proposes a framework that decomposes migrant social capital into resources (information about or assistance with migration), sources (prior migrants), and recipients (potential migrants). Analysis of multi-level and longitudinal data from 22 rural villages in Thailand shows that the probability of internal migration increases with the available resources, yet the magnitude of increase depends on recipients’ characteristics and the strength of their ties to sources. Specifically, individuals become more likely to migrate if migrant social capital resources are greater and more accessible. The diversity of resources by occupation increases the likelihood of migration, while diversity by destination inhibits it. Resources from weakly-tied sources, such as village members, have a higher effect on migration than resources from strongly-tied sources in the household. Finally, the importance of resources for migration declines with recipients’ own migration experience. These findings challenge the mainstream account of migrant social capital as a uniform resource that generates similar migration outcomes for different groups of individuals or in different settings. In Nang Rong villages, depending on the configuration of resources, sources and recipients, migrant social capital leads to differential migration outcomes for individuals and divergent cumulative migration patterns in communities.