Fleeing Polygamy? Senegalese Young Men Flock to Europe

Does polygamy explain why Senegalese immigration to Europe is so high? A commenter suggests it does:

[Polygamist Senegal’s] extra men simply migrate to the West… [Excess males] naturally gravitate to more hospitable societies.

Smugglers of Senegalese illegal-immigrants into Europe are known to charge $2,000-USD to the would-be illegal-immigrant, for a one-way ticket aboard a crude “Camps-of-the-Saints”-style boat). Average income in Senegal is $1,900 per year [link]).

I looked at the data Senegalese immigration to Europe to see whether this is true.
Summary of Findings:

Q. How many Senegalese have immigrated to Europe since year 2000?
A. ~264,000 males and 73,000 females. (See below for how this was determined). A net-loss of young-males for Senegal of 191,000 males.

Q. Currently, ~20% of Senegal’s males under-40 are forcibly-single because of polygamy. What would be the single-male percentage in Senegal today without emigration?
A. 26% of Senegal’s young males would lack wives if none had ever emigrated to Europe.

Senegalese Legal Immigrants into Europe in the 2000s (“immigrants” includes all those given legal residency status, including asylees and legalized illegals):

Note #1: “Net Males” equals [Males]-[Females], i.e. the excess of males over females.
Note #2: All data is derived from EuroStat. Tables: “Immigration by sex, age, and citizenship”.
Note #3: Records were not available for every year for Italy and France. Extrapolation was used to fill-in for missing years for these countries.
Note #4: Italy, France, and Spain are recognized as the primary destinations for Senegalese immigrants. Most other European states record very-low numbers of Senegalese immigrating or did not report. (2000-2008: Sweden, 225. Netherlands, 381. Austria, 335. Germany, 1,423 from 2003-2008.) The UK is the most prominent country that did not report most years. Britain reported its Senegalese immigrant totals only in 2002 and 2005: 146 in 2005 — about 5% of Italy’s total that year, implying UK had ~2,000 for the period 2000-2008. In 2002, UK recorded 15% of Italy’s total, implying 6,000 total for the period in question.
Note #5: The origin of the “Other” figure: Most countries did not report for most years. In 2005, the year when the highest number of countries reported, 7.7% of Senegalese who legally immigrated to Europe went to destinations other than France, Italy, or Spain. It is assumed that 7.7% over the entire period went to the rest of Europe. This is the best estimate based on data available.
Note #6: Eurostat records 12,688 Senegalese as being given legal status in Spain in 2008. 10,616 are listed as female! [83.7%]. This seems a definite transcription error. Years 2000-2007 averaged 86.3% male. Some EU data-entry clerk must have entered the male data in the female place and vice-versa for 2008. Nothing else could explain an exact inversion of the male-female ratio in one year. In my calculations I have assumed this to be a transcription error, i.e. that 10,616 is the actual number of males for Spain in 2008.

Senegal’s Net-Loss of Males
99,300 Senegalese males and 33,900 Senegalese females were given legal-resident status in Europe, 2000-2008. Net-loss of males to Senegal: 65,400.

This is a net-loss of 7,300 males per year. Assuming this average held in 2009 and 2010, then Senegal’s net-loss of males to Europe from 2000-2010 is 80,000 (legals). [121,400 males; 41,400 females].

How Many Senegalese Illegal Immigrants are in Europe?

This article from the Spanish press from Dec. 2007 reports:

Today a total of 30,000 Senegalese live in Spain legally, while it is “impossible to say for sure” just how many natives of that African country live in Spain illegally, as “neither the police nor the embassy knows. […] [One investigation found that] in the Baleares Islands [of Spain], 50 percent of resident Senegalese are undocumented.

Another Spanish media report from earlier in 2007 asserts that

There are 25,000 Senegalese here with legal papers, but if we speak of residents without papers it is much more difficult to estimate. Last year alone [2006], 20,000 Senegalese illegally entered Spain aboard boats from Africa, and many of them have not been repatriated.

In 2006, 6,800 Senegalese were given legal-residency by Spain. (According to EuroStat, which takes its records from national statistical agencies). If this figure of 20,000 “boat people” is true, this means illegal immigration that year was 3x the rate of legal immigration.

“Net” illegal-immigration of Senegalese will be less, because a.) 2006 was a peak year for illegal-migration, b.) Some of those who arrive illegally are deported, c.) the “legal immigration” figure will be double-counting some, who are amnestied illegals. (Especially for Spain, which has had numerous amnesties).

There are various estimates possible.

Assuming “net illegal immigration” to be 2x the legal rate, and using only the figures for Italy and Spain (the points of arrival for boat-people from Africa [legals: 10,600/yr.]), that means 21,200 Senegalese illegally entered Europe every year, 2000-2010, for a grand-total of 233,000 who arrived illegally and remain illegal.

Assuming the male-female ratio among illegals is the same as the ratio among legals in Spain and Italy, this would mean that from 2000-2010: 190,000 males and 42,000 females illegally-immigrated from Senegal to Europe and remain illegal. Net-loss of Senegalese males to illegal-immigration (2000-2010) to Europe is thus 148,000.

Assuming “net illegal immigration” is 1.5x the legal rate: 143,000 males and 32,000 females illegally-immigrated from Senegal to Europe and remain illegal. Net-loss of males: 111,000.

Assuming”net illegal immigration” is only equal to [1x] the legal rate: 95,000 males and 21,000 females illegally-immigrated from Senegal to Europe and remain illegal. Net-loss of males: 74,000.

Estimates on illegal-immigration are necessarily speculative, but these are reasonable estimates based on the data available, including the mini-census on the Baleares cited above, which found half of Senegalese were illegal. I have used the middle-bound estimates.
Summary and Comments
A summary of the above investigations:

Senegal’s Net Loss of Males to Europe, 2000-2010
191,000: Total
80,000: Legal
111,000: Illegal

To bring it all back to polygamy: If we were to put these 191,000 (net) young males back in Senegal tomorrow, the share of males under-40 in Senegal who would lack wives would jump to ~26%. (Up from the present ~20%).

— Emigration of young males helps Senegal relieve its wife shortage.
— Emigration probably hurts Senegal because a lot of its most industrious and ambitious elements are lost to the country. (Remember that one needs to raise the equivalent of a year’s wages to buy a ticket on a boat to Europe; the lazy need not apply).
— I would guess that neighboring Christian [monogamist] societies in West-Africa have less emigration-pressure on young males.
— The blog of an American female college student who studied abroad in Senegal are illustrative of the kind of society polygamy has helped shape there: “I got at least 12 marriage proposals today– at least, that was when I stopped counting. There were plenty more after that, and declarations of love and all that. I prefer the marriage proposals to the declarations of love, because at least the marriage proposals are honest– they do want to get married, so they can get a visa to the U.S. For the Senegalese it is neither uncommon nor impolite to ask for something totally ridiculous and they expect to be turned down, but to me it’s a shocker.”
Here is an argument in favor of polygamy from a Senegalese female teacher, which boils down to selfishness: “It can be good for females in [such and such] ways”. Nevermind that it cuts off many males from marriage.

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2 Responses to Fleeing Polygamy? Senegalese Young Men Flock to Europe

  1. Karimah says:

    There are some other perspectives: first, Senegal does not have “wife-shortage” up to now. Young girls, especially in towns, are facing problems to find husband as well – they (and their families) prefer working wealthy men, which are not many in Senegal. Thus, we can say that willing to get married is pushing young Senegalese to migrate, but only in that sense that it is much easier to get a (Senegalese) wife, once you are an emmigrant to the West. (Many women even refuse marrying a man who is not living in the West http://www.seneweb.com/news/Immigration/la-solitude-des-femmes-d-rsquo-emigres-quelle-solution-proposez-vous_n_44283.html )
    As for the previous article, the “wife shortage equation” does not contain numerous cases of levirate or re-marrying of divorced women (almost 50% of senegalese marriages ends up by divorce, while 99% of divorced women re-marry. Single men are not interested in divorced women, so these women enter almost exclusively into polygamous marriages). Then the numbers are different.

  2. So, they emigrate to get married?…such an unimaginable non-sense…….most people from developing nations migrate for economic reasons…..so you mean they will find plenty of young black girls in Spain ready to be married at 13 years and are circumcised??…..utter none-sense.

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