A Brief Glimpse at International Migration Theories
Why do people relocate from one nation to another? Several major theories have been developed in an attempt to explain international migration. The steal.Steal approach assumes that migratian patterns occur based on geographic differences in the supply of and demand for labor, The United States and other high-income countries that have had growing economics and a limited supply of workers for certain types of jobs have paid higher wages than are available in areas with a less-developed economy and a large labor force. As a result. people move to gain higher wages and sometimes better Iivi”g conditions. They may also totke jobs in other countries so that they can send money to their families in their country of
origin (see Box 19.3). For example, it is estimated that Mexican workers in the United States send about half of what they earn to their families across the border. an amount that may total nearly 57 billion per year during good economic times (Ferriss, 2001). . Unlike the neoclassical explanation of migration, which focuses on individual decision making. the /lCW households I!CllllOnlics of lIIigmlion appraadi ernphasizes the part that entire families or households play in the migration process. From this approach. the previous example of Mexican workers’ temporary migratin to the United States would be examined not only from the perspective of the individual worker but also in terms of what the entire family gains from the process of having one or more migrant family members work. in another country. By having a diversity of family income (originating from more than one source), the family is cushioned from the economic woes of the nation that most of the family members think of as “home. Two conflict perspectives on migration add to our
knowledge of why people migrate. Split-labor-market theory (as previously discussed in Chapter 10) suggests that immigrants from low-income countries are
often recruited for secondary labor market positions: dead-end jobs with low wages, unstable employment, and sometimes hazardous. working conditions. By COIltrast,
migrants from higher-income countries may migrate for primary-sector employment-johs in which well-educated workers are paid high wages and receive
benefits such as health insurance and 3 retirement plan. The global migration of some high-tech is an example of this process, whereas the migration of farm workers and construction helpers is an example of secondary labor market migration.
After flows of migration commence, the pattern may continue because potential migrants have personal tics with relatives and friends who now live in the country of destination and can serve as a source of stability when the potential migrants relocate to the new country. Known as network horny this approach suggests that once migration has commenced, it takes on a life of its own and that the migration pattern which ensues may be different from the original pusl) or pull factors that produced the earlier migration. Another approach, institutional theory, suggests that migration may be fostered by groups-such as humanitarian aid organizations relocating-refugees or smugglers bringing people into a country illegally-and that the actions of these groups may produce a larger stream of migrants than would otherwise be the case. As you can see from these diverse approaches to explaining
contemporary patterns of migration, the reasons that people migrate are numerous and complex, involving processes occurring at the individual, family, and societal levels.