Migration and Development Framework and Its Links to Integration

  • Russell KingEmail author
  • Michael Collyer
Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


This chapter centres on the relationship between migration and development (M&D). Taking a theoretical and historical perspective, it traces how analysis of this relationship has swung between positive and negative interpretations over the seven decades of the European post-war era. Throughout this historical-theoretical treatment, three processes are offered as potential triggers of home-country development: remittances, return migration, and diaspora involvement. Then the dual conceptual lens of M&D is broadened: migration and return are refocused as encompassing a diversity of transnational mobilities; development is reconceptualized as being less about economic measures and more about human wellbeing; and the analysis of remittances is broadened from financial transfers to include social, cultural, and political elements. The final part of the chapter aims at a synthesis between the M&D frame, on the one hand, and the integration frame, on the other. Two questions are asked. First, how does the multifaceted integration process impact on migrants’ capacity to stimulate development in their home countries and communities? Second, for those migrants who return-migrate or who lead multi-sited transnational lives, what are the challenges to their reintegration in their countries of origin?


European Union Gross Domestic Product Home Country Labour Migration Destination Country 
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Both historically and still today, migration is driven by economics. One of Ravenstein’s famous laws of migration went simply thus: ‘The major causes of migration are economic’.1 Whilst it is true, in this late-modern era, that people migrate for a greater diversity of reasons, including education, lifestyle, love, or a warmer climate, the primacy of “economic migration” remains, not least in political discourse and in discussions over how migration should be managed. In the UK, for instance, the term “economic migrants”, said with emphasis on the “economic”, is applied to people whose influx should be rigidly controlled, even suppressed, except when there is an anticipated benefit to the economy, as in the aftermath of European Union (EU) enlargement in 2004.2

This continuous stress on migration as a fundamentally economic process is an enduring explanation of why most migration takes place (to escape poverty and unemployment, to improve incomes and life-chances, etc.), but it says very little about the effects of migration, especially on the countries, regions, and communities of origin of the migrants, and on their family members left behind. The economic frame of reference, with its emphasis on (un)employment, incomes, and labour markets, says even less about other important dimensions of migration, such as migrants’ social integration in the host country and what this, in turn, might mean for their relationship with their home country.

The connection between the succinct interpretation of integration set out by Penninx and Garcés-Mascareñas in Chap.  2 of this volume (on the process of becoming an accepted part of society) and the predominantly economic understanding of migration and development is not always clear. One of our central arguments in this chapter is that the overall approach to migration and development in both applied and theoretical terms has fluctuated with different understandings of the nature, forms, and processes of integration. We follow other theoretical overviews of migration and development in characterizing this relationship as a swinging pendulum (De Haas 2012; Gamlen 2014).

We first look at how the relationship between migration and development (henceforth M&D) has been seen theoretically, tracing how this analysis has swung between positive and negative interpretations over the seven decades of the European post-war era. Throughout this historical-theoretical treatment, we privilege three processes as potential triggers of home-country development: remittances, return migration, and diaspora involvement. We then broaden the dual conceptual lens of M&D: we refocus migration and return as encompassing a diversity of transnational mobilities; we reconceptualize development as being less about economic measures and more about human wellbeing; and we broaden our analysis of remittances from financial transfers to include social, cultural, and political elements. The final part of the chapter aims at a synthesis between the M&D frame, on the one hand, and the integration frame, on the other. Here, we ask two questions. First, how does the multifaceted integration process impact on migrants’ capacity to stimulate development in their home countries and communities? Second, for those migrants who return-migrate or who lead multi-sited transnational lives, what are the challenges to their reintegration in their countries of origin?

Theoretical Perspectives on the M&D Nexus

Any social scientist with a contemporary global perspective will surely agree that the phenomenon of migration and the challenge of development are vigorously debated topics. How do these two mega-processes interface with each other? We start with definitions and move to theory. Bakewell (2012: xiv) contrasts ‘solid’ migration with ‘slippery’ development.

Migration is observable and measurable, despite the invisibility of clandestine migration and the challenges of collecting good migration statistics. The global stock of migrants—people residing in a country different from their birth country—stands at 232 million, 3.3% of the world’s population of 7.2 billion (UN 2013). But stock figures are static measures; they reflect the culmination of previous migrations. Given that both migration and development are dynamic processes, flows of migrants are often seen as the more relevant variable—either one-way or net flows over a certain time span, such as a year or a decade. The notion of net migration, intuitively attractive in the gravitational logic of economic push and pull factors, is problematic, however, as it is the residual product of five types of migration flows: emigrants going out of a country, and those returning; immigrants coming into a country, and those returning; and finally, transit migrants passing through. Moreover, if migration is seen as the product of individual human decision-making events, then it has to be pointed out that there is no such individual as a net migrant! Fischer et al. (1997: 94–96) engage in a simple but interesting correlation analysis between the “net stock” of migration for each country (the balance between that country’s immigrants and its emigrants, expressed as a percentage of total population) and the “dependant” variable of development (gross domestic product (GDP) per capita measured in purchasing power parities). For the world as a whole, the correlation is +0.46. Overall, then, the more immigrants the higher the GDP, and the more emigration the lower the GDP.3

Compared to “solid” migration, the conceptualization and measurement of development are contentious, with a diversity of perspectives. Bakewell (2012: xiv–xvi) notes two older ideas of development. The first is the European Enlightenment belief in the capacity of humanity to progress towards a stable and rational social and economic order, which implies a duty of “advanced” countries to help and “civilize” the “unenlightened” parts of the world. In practice, this was no more than a ‘moral cover for colonial expansion’ (ibid.). Second, the mid-twentieth-century collapse of colonial empires, combined with the Cold War, set the frame for an ideological battle between, on the one side, the West’s policy of “development” as modernization and economic growth within the capitalist global order and, on the other, the heterogeneous communist or socialist ideas about development espoused by the Soviet bloc, China, Cuba, etc. We return to this ideological duel presently.

Over time, narrowly economic interpretations of development (i.e., economic growth measured in trends in GDP per capita as the magical indicator) broadened to a wider vision of human development. This is now well established (since 1990) in the Human Development Index used in successive annual reports of the United Nations Development Programme to synthesize, alongside per capita GDP, quality-of-life variables like literacy, health, life expectancy, infant mortality, human rights, and gender equality into composite indices. Such measures take their cue from Sen’s (1999) pioneering work on reconceptualizing development as the capacity of people to exercise autonomy and control over their lives.

Migration Studies and Development Studies

Until relatively recently the two interdisciplinary fields of migration studies and development studies remained separate: migration scholars said little about development, and development specialists said little about migration. Policy debates likewise were kept largely separate. Some significant forays were made into the interlinkages, at both the local-regional level (Abadan-Unat et al. 1976) and on a more global scale (Skeldon 1997; Zelinsky 1971), but little attempt was made at formal theorization of the relationship.

For most of the post-war period until the early 1990s, the predominant European discourse focused on labour-market needs, “guest worker” immigration, and “integration”. There was almost no acknowledgement of migrants’ links to their home countries and their developmental impact there. There was, however, an implicit assumption that migration would be beneficial to migrants’ home countries through savings and remittances sent back, and through the innovative stimulus of return migration. However, several studies carried out in various return-destination contexts in the 1970s and 1980s found this return-development mechanism to be largely lacking.4 What was clear then, and what has emerged with renewed clarity as a result of the westward migration of Poles and other accession-country migrants since 2004, is the developmental contribution of labour migration to the receiving country, the continued growth of which was sustained and accelerated by extra supplies of flexible and willing labour. Both the guest worker migration and the recent East–west migration vindicate Piore’s (1979) thesis on the crucial role of migrant labour in fuelling growth in advanced industrial economies. Indeed Castles and Kosack (1973, 8), in their classic treatise on immigrant workers in Western Europe, go so far as to say that labour migration was a form of development aid given by the poor to the rich countries of Europe.

The nature of the M&D debate changed around 2000, prompted by a constellation of changing migration contexts, new policy initiatives, and an academic reappraisal of what came to be called the migration–development nexus (Van Hear and Sørensen 2002). This substantial change can be framed in terms of the three distinct levels set out in Chap.  2—individuals, organizations, and institutions—plus a fourth factor, which is the theoretical shift in keeping with empirical findings and political developments. First, at the individual and human-behaviour level, there was a clear understanding that global migration accelerated, globalized, and diversified after the 1980s, through the era that Castles and Miller (2008) refer to as the ‘Age of Migration’. Beyond the classic “guest worker” origins in Southern Europe and the Maghreb, migrants were now arriving in Europe from a far wider geographical spread of source countries. The destinations in Europe shifted too, expanding from the “first generation” of North-Western European receiving countries to include new “second-generation” immigration countries (the southern EU countries plus Ireland). This new immigration wave received fresh impetus after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the subsequent eastward expansion of the EU.

Second, at the organizational level, there was recognition that the way migrants are organized was significant. The various forms that migrant collectives took, particularly hometown associations, underlined the importance of forms of integration in both the origin and the destination country. Portes’ (1998) notion of “globalization from below” highlights the existence of grassroots networks of migrants, connected transnationally. The effectiveness of these organizations was dependent on their ability to “be accepted” as parts of two societies, as globally networked citizens with access to key expertise in their countries of destination and as purveyors of international financial support in their communities of origin (Lacroix 2005). In many cases, the societies in which migrants were accepted were highly localized. At the national level their presence was challenged in both origin and destination; acceptance came in villages of origin and professional networks in destination countries.

Third, at the institutional level, there were several new initiatives at the international policy and political level. Countries of migrant origin were accepted as partners or were drawn into debates on the international management of migration through such arenas as the Global Forum on Migration and Development, the High-Level UN Dialogues on Migration, and the increasing recognition of migration’s developmental potential in EU policy documents.5 A parallel developmentalist thrust was prominent in publications emanating from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UNDP, notably the latter’s Human Development Report for 2009, entitled Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development (UNDP 2009). Meanwhile the IOM’s 2013 World Migration Report also focuses on migration and development as its main theme (IOM 2013). Another aspect of the changing political context is the pressure coming from some European countries for the return or repatriation of migrants, especially those deemed “illegal”. Part of the justification for this pressure for return is cloaked in a rhetoric of contributions to home-country development. The spread of assisted voluntary return programmes is a clear indication of this development.

Finally, from a theoretical perspective, publication of the collection of papers edited by Van Hear and Sørensen (2002) on the migration–development nexus refocused the academic debate, highlighting in particular the role of remittances in stimulating home-country development. This is consistent with a more “bottom-up” view of migration and development, drawing on the “new economics” of labour migration, which foregrounds migration as a family or household decision leading to the temporary or circulating absence of key workers to generate remittances and investment for the homeland-based residual household or extended family, both for its survival and growth, and as a risk-averting hedge against unforeseen “market failures” such as a crop wipe-out (Taylor 1999).

Unpacking the M&D Nexus

We identify two diagrammatic representations of the M&D relationship, the second of which substitutes “underdevelopment” for “development”. Figure 10.1 sets these out as two simple causal models. The questions are easy to pose but difficult to answer given conflicting ideological and theoretical stances and a lack of consistency across the mountain of empirical evidence that exists. So, does migration stimulate development; or is the causal link the reverse, with development leading to migration? Or is the relationship recursive, leading to a virtuous circle? Taking the alternative model, does underdevelopment produce migration; or does migration lead to underdevelopment? Or do they reproduce each other, this time in a vicious cycle? When we talk about development, who or what is experiencing this? The receiving society, the sending society, the migrants themselves—or all three in the aspired-for “triple-win” scenario? Are these hypothesized relationships stable over time, or are they likely to change according to historical context as well as the geographical setting and scale of analysis (e.g., household, community, nation)? Castles’ (2009) view is that simple one-way causality is impossible to infer, and that both migration and (under)development are part of the same interactive process, which he labels “global social transformation” (Castles 2010). This argument, at one level, is persuasive and probably true, but at another level it is perhaps too glib, allowing us to opt out of asking and responding to certain realist questions. Such questions reflect the fact that migration is not necessarily a continuous and stable process (and nor is development). Many migration events occur with particular intensity in certain places, at certain times, and under certain conditions, such as economic crisis, civil strife, and environmental stress. Four questions seem particularly relevant, bearing in mind that our primary focus in this chapter is on migration from poorer countries to richer ones.
Fig. 10.1

Migration and (under)development: two scenarios (Source: Authors)

  1. 1.

    Does underdevelopment cause outmigration?

  2. 2.

    Does outmigration then lead to further underdevelopment?

  3. 3.

    Or, does outmigration lead to development of the source areas?

  4. 4.

    If outmigration leads to development of the source areas, does this development lead to less or further outmigration?


We feel that evidence exists to support a positive answer to the first question. Studies from around the world have repeatedly shown that people migrate to escape poverty and other difficult life situations, although it is not necessarily the “poorest of the poor” who leave (De Haan 1999; Skeldon 2002). Contrasts also exist between those who see poverty migration as a voluntary act stimulated by the economic push-pull factors of unemployment and minimal incomes at home and better jobs and incomes abroad; and on the other hand, those who see this kind of migration as a forced move driven by the dictates of the globalized but segmented labour market supported by the predatory behaviour of corporate and individual employers. The question is, what happens next? If outmigration leads to further underdevelopment and impoverishment of the home area, then the vicious-cycle model applies. But if outmigration leads to the source area’s development through resource reallocation or the inflow of vital remittances, then migration becomes an endogenous factor in development and we switch to the other, “virtuous” model.

The final question in the set above begs two alternative answers. If development leads to reduced migration, then this is vindication of the “root causes” argument whereby, if a state of underdevelopment can be steered towards development, then the fundamental driver of outmigration will be removed. But this is far from the whole story, since evidence is accumulating that migration-led development can also stimulate further emigration through the demonstration effect (the success of some migrants tempts others to move) and the fact that, as a result of development, more people have access to the financial resources and social networks necessary for successful emigration (De Haas 2007). The positive correlation between migration and development continues until such time as the country or region reaches a level of development whereby poverty-induced migration no longer occurs, thereby producing an inverted U-curve, labelled by Martin and Taylor (1996) as the “migration hump” (Fig. 10.2).
Fig. 10.2

Migration and development: “root causes” versus “the hump” (Source: Adapted from Martin and Taylor (1996))

Virtuous and Vicious Circles: Theoretical Underpinnings

Figure 10.1 portrays two simple models of the M&D relationship, representing respectively a virtuous and a vicious circle. The virtuous version relies on orthodox economic arguments but exhibits two variants, based in turn on neoclassical and “new” economics of migration. According to neoclassical equilibrium theory, people make rational, well-informed calculations of the costs of, and returns to, migration (Sjaastad 1962). They migrate as individual decision-makers responding to differential wage rates, real incomes, and (un)employment rates in different regions or countries. They move from high-unemployment, low-wage economies to places where wages are significantly higher (sufficiently higher to discount the costs of migration) and jobs are widely available. By transferring labour from a high-supply, low-marginal-productivity country to one which has high demand and high marginal productivity of labour, migration increases aggregate economic welfare and eventually equalizes wage and employment differences through factor-price convergence. An equilibrium is reached, and migration ceases; the system is self-regulating and self-correcting. The developmental effects accrue especially to the destination country, which receives an extra supply of labour to boost growth (Borjas 1995). For the sending country, according to equilibrium theory, incomes should rise as the downward pressure on wages wrought by an over-supply of labour is removed, and other resources—such as land and housing—are reallocated accordingly. The neoclassical model has its own internal economic logic, but is based on many unrealistic assumptions, including “perfect information” and no barriers to migration. It also “assumes away” the social context of families and kinship, and says nothing about integration. Under this model there is no return migration—returnees are simply “failures” who miscalculated the costs and benefits of their migration (Cassarino 2004).

Remittances are rarely mentioned in the neoclassical interpretation of M&D, but they are central to the new economics of labour migration (NELM) model (Taylor 1999). Still essentially an orthodox economic model, NELM shifts focus from the individual to the household and stresses migrants’ agency within the family setting. Moreover, migration takes place not just to maximize income from labour but to minimize the risk of “market failures” such as a natural disaster or a collapse in the price of a key product. Under the NELM model, one or more family members migrate (usually those whose labour power is most marketable abroad, such as a young male construction worker or a female domestic worker), leaving others behind to continue the household’s business (e.g., a small farm holding). In this way a portfolio of income and subsistence sources is created, cushioning the effects of a possible failure in one of the sources. Remittances are sent to support the residual family in the home country, and may be deployed in a variety of uses: setting up a new enterprise, educating young family members, or responding to an emergency (e.g., a drought or medical bills). Once the target is reached, return migration can take place—hence, under this model returnees are successes, not failures—although other household members may continue the tradition of migration in order to preserve the flow of remittances.

Completely opposite to the neoclassical and NELM visions of M&D is the vicious cycle interpretation. Drawing on Marxist political economy, historical-structuralism, the Latin American Dependencia School (Frank 1969) and Wallerstein’s (1974) world systems theory, this framework sees migration between poor and rich countries as part of the “development of underdevelopment” in the economic periphery. Migrants are the pawns of global capitalism, part of capital’s search for a “reserve army” of cheap, exploitable, and expendable labour. Delgado Wise and Márquez Covarrubias (2011) view migration as integral to the reproduction of global and regional inequality and as reinforcing the structures of spatial uneven development. These authors see such labour transfers as forced migration between unequal partners (e.g., Mexico and the USA, Morocco and Europe) bound together in a system of profoundly asymmetric integration. Such migration contributes to the development of the advanced receiving society but impoverishes the already-poor sending country. Under this optic, migration is self-perpetuating, via mechanisms of cumulative causation, not self-correcting to an equilibrium state. Peripheral countries or regions in the global economic and geopolitical system are condemned to remain peripheral, their main function being to supply whatever raw materials (including labour) they have to the countries of the “core”. In this model, remittances and return migration do not feature as exogenous stimuli for development. Remittances are argued to be largely “wasted” on housing and consumer goods, resulting in “modernization without development”, and return migration is said to bring back only the sick, the exhausted, and the retired.

Optimism, Pessimism, and the Neoliberal Agenda

The theoretical-ideological models outlined above have held sway in three alternating periods of more or less 20 years each. The optimism of the 1950s and 1960s, the decades of mass labour migration in Europe, was replaced by the pessimism of the 1970s and 1980s. Renewed optimism came with the rise of the transnationalist and new economics paradigms in the academic study and policy framing of migration in the 1990s and 2000s. In two important papers, De Haas (2010, 2012) maps these swings of the “migration and development pendulum” as follows (see also Faist and Fauser 2011; Gamlen 2014).

The 1950s and 1960s saw economic reconstruction and industrial expansion in North-Western Europe. Labour migration transferred workers, initially temporary “guest workers”, from labour-surplus to labour-deficit regions of Europe. Little attempt was made to integrate these migrant workers, since it was assumed that their stay would be temporary. True, they were economically integrated into the host country’s production system, but they were not encouraged to integrate socially and culturally, and they were given limited legal and civic rights. From a developmental perspective, the general view, at least on the part of many economists and policymakers, was that this labour migration not only helped North-Western European economies to rebuild, industrialize, and modernize, but also upgraded living standards in the sending areas through rising wages, capital transfers (remittances and some capital investments facilitated by low-cost labour and fiscal incentives), and re-skilled returnees (Kindleberger 1967).

Critical voices played down these achievements. They claimed that remittances failed to stimulate development beyond consumption and that returnees, who had mostly done menial jobs in factories and on construction sites, brought little relevant knowledge and skills. Few returnees invested in viable enterprises that spawned economic multiplier effects, like creating new employment for the local economy (Böhning 1975). At the same time, it was noted that migrants had “failed” to integrate largely because of the host society’s barriers of exclusion and racism (Castles and Kosack 1973). This pessimism widened to a more general critique of migration-led development after the oil crisis brought a halt to labour-migrant recruitment in Europe in 1973. Seers et al. (1979) applied the core–periphery model to the European case, the result being that “developmentalism” gave way to “dependency” and “underdevelopmentalism” as characterizations of the theoretical and empirical outcome of the post-oil crisis years. It was argued that emigration not only took away the youngest, fittest, and most ambitious of the less-educated workers from the peripheral regions, it also produced a brain drain of the more highly educated, leading to an overall decline in the periphery’s endowment of human capital.

During the 1990s the pendulum swung again, back towards the optimistic view of migration’s contribution to development. Both ideological shifts and a large volume of empirical evidence lay behind this new optimism. First, there was a critique of the deterministic neo-Marxist model of migration, which now seemed old-fashioned and illogical. The downward spiral of cumulative causation—for example, underdevelopment produces migration, which leads to further underdevelopment and thus more migration—could not continue forever; and the accumulating evidence of the migration hump—for instance, the way that the Southern European countries transitioned from mass emigration to mass immigration—was more convincing. Moreover, an increasing body of empirical studies carried out at the time revealed that, under certain conditions, migration could positively contribute to the development of regions and countries of origin, and that a more positive integration outcome often correlated with better home-country development feedbacks (De Haas 2010, 240). Inspired by NELM thinking, migration came to be seen as an effective route out of poverty, and as a rational strategy for household sustenance and improvement. Remittances took centre stage in this M&D neo-optimism. Indeed, they became a kind of mantra for economists and policymakers working in this sector of development (Kapur 2005). Against the pessimists’ claim that remittances were “wasted” on extravagant housing and social-status performances, studies traced productive and development-inducing effects (see Adams and Page 2005; Gammeltoft 2002; Lucas 2005, 145–206; Ngoma and Ismail 2013). Remittance spending on housing and consumption, after all, did improve the quality of life and generate multiplier effects in the local economy, creating employment and stimulating demand for goods and services. Improved housing not only raised social status, but also contributed to general wellbeing, health, and safety (De Haas 2012, 13). Once basic needs were met, some remittances were invested in farming, small enterprises, and services, especially in regions where such investments could bear fruit, such as agriculturally productive lands or areas undergoing tourism development.

The new optimism described above reflects neoliberal ideas about individual initiative: the migrant is constituted as the key agent, even the hero, of development. Faist and Fauser (2011, 7) draw parallels with the French policy notion co-development, which positions the migrant as a partner in development cooperation. But it is also clear that the preferred type of migration has also changed, shifting back to an emphasis on temporary or circular migration—a return to the guest worker (Castles 2006) without, however, using that term. Circular migration is presented as the ideal type in order to maximize remittances and home-country commitment, as well as (though this is rarely made explicit) to prevent long-term settlement and consequent “integration problems”. This shift in thinking about migration is currently receiving considerable academic attention (e.g., Ruhs 2006; Skeldon 2012) and has become enshrined in the terminology and policy thrusts of many prominent international policy actors. We cite three examples to make this point. The Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM), set up by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, noted in its report, ‘the old paradigm of permanent migrant settlement is progressively giving way to temporary and circular migration’ (GCIM 2005, 31). The GCIM stressed ‘the need to grasp the developmental opportunities that this important shift in migration patterns provides for countries of origin’ and went on to encourage ‘countries of destination [to] promote circular migration by providing mechanisms and channels that enable migrants to move easily between their countries of origin and destination’. Second, successive volumes of the IOM’s World Migration Report have likewise proposed that more circular migration can bring developmental benefits to developing countries (see, e.g., IOM 2008). Third, the UNDP’s 2009 Human Development Report paired “human mobility” and “development” in its subtitle and argued strongly for ‘overcoming the barriers’ to mobility, thereby releasing the potential for temporary migration to contribute ‘large gains to human development’ (UNDP 2009, 3).

These landmark statements by key international actors reflect different variants of the so-called “triple-win” scenario whereby migration is said to be “good” for the receiving and the sending countries, as well as for the migrants themselves. However, doubts about the attainability of the win-win-win situation lead us towards a more critical stance and a possible backswing of the pendulum towards a fourth stage, ‘neo-pessimism’ (De Haas 2012, 22; Gamlen 2014), based on a two-pronged reappraisal of the optimistic view of M&D. First, empirical evidence on migrants’ real lives, either when they are working in exploitative conditions abroad, or from the perspective of their still-poor home communities, often reveals that the over-celebratory discourse of M&D is misplaced. The second reframing comes from questioning the ideology underlying the neoliberal agenda. Bronden (2012, 3) sees the ‘positive’ M&D initiatives and policies discussed above as the ‘human face of neoliberalism’, masking more repressive agendas driven by the global North relating to migration control, securitization, and the necessity of preserving the hegemony of the dominant economic and geopolitical powers. This encourages us to redirect our gaze to the structural forces that are obscured by neoliberal rhetoric about migrants as the “best” agents for development—which for Glick Schiller (2012, 93) is little more than ‘spin’. As Harvey (2005) among others shows, neoliberalism has created new wealth but only by destroying previous spatial structures and social relations of production, changing distribution and consumption patterns, and generating new forms of desire (see also Glick Schiller 2011, 37). These transformations and translocations, whilst opening up new opportunities for migrants within segmented, gendered, and sexualized fractions of the global labour market, have at the same time subjected many migrants to regimes of control, social exclusion, and denial of rights. Migrants’ vulnerability has been increased rather than reduced, as the latest economic crisis has demonstrated, especially in countries like Greece and Spain that have been harshly affected by financial meltdown.

Towards a Broader Framing of Migration and Development

Over the past 20 or so years, two major paradigm shifts have affected the way we theorize and operationalize the concept of migration: these are the transnational perspective of the 1990s and the mobility turn of the 2000s, based respectively on foundational studies by Glick Schiller et al. (1992, 1995) and Urry (2000, 2007). Taken together, these opened up for study the transnational mobilities enfolded within longer term and more stable migration and integration systems—mobilities not only of people (e.g., visiting “home” or trading back and forth) but also of money, goods, ideas, and images, which circulate within, and indeed construct and constitute, transnational social and economic space (Faist 2008). Remittances remain a key part of the economics of transnational life (Guarnizo 2003), but they need to be understood in a wider context of, first, transnational social, kinship, and gender dynamics, and second, state macroeconomic policy and institutional structures. Thanks to Levitt (1998, 926), our understanding has broadened to include social remittances: ‘the ideas, behaviours, identities, and social capital that flow from receiving- to sending-country communities’ and which are dependent on the level of integration achieved by migrants in host countries. Subsequent thinking about social remittances has benefited from a yet broader light. Political and cultural remittances include ideas about democracy, entitlement, transparency, morality, and cultural codes that move not just from host to sending country but are circular, building on the social and cultural capital that migrants start out with before migration (Levitt and Lamba-Nieves 2011).

The transnational lens also creates the framework for adding a third M&D mechanism to return and remittances: the recent emphasis on “mobilizing the diaspora” for homeland development (Brinkerhoff 2008; Collyer 2013; Newland and Tanaka 2010; Sørensen 2007). Migrants and their descendants who are residentially based abroad can become geographically mobile “transnational agents” and “diasporic actors” stimulating development in homeland communities by setting up businesses, investing in growth enterprises, and becoming politically or philanthropically active (Faist and Fauser 2011, 8). The issue of diaspora-led development is receiving increasing attention from home-country governments, international bodies, and donor agencies. Among the prescriptions for capitalizing on this development resource are the need to create an information-rich enabling environment that offers incentives for the diaspora to invest and “get involved” and the recommendation that homeland governments target certain segments or members of the diaspora who have the most to offer (Brinkerhoff 2009). Having said this, emigrants and diasporic people do not always have good relations with homeland authorities. There may be political cleavages and low levels of trust in the ability of governments to act transparently and efficiently. Therefore much diasporic activity in the homeland is individualistic or administered through nongovernmental organizations. Nevertheless, diasporic actors have the capacity to move “beyond remittances” through their entrepreneurial activities, including investment, venture capital partnerships, and training and mentoring visits (Newland and Tanaka 2010).

Not only has the meaning of migration become stretched and diversified, the same applies to understandings of development. The most recent trend is to look at development through a human wellbeing perspective. The IOM’s 2013 World Migration Report shifted the developmental focus onto the happiness and wellbeing of migrants and their family members. Gough and McGregor (2007, 34) in their study of wellbeing in developing countries offer the following definition of human wellbeing: ‘a state of being with others, where human needs are met, where one can act meaningfully to pursue one’s goals and where one enjoys satisfactory quality of life’. A key distinction made in the literature is that between objective and subjective wellbeing (Wright 2012, 9–11). The former concentrates on statistical indicators of, for example, income, health, and employment, whereas the latter is based on subjective experience and evaluation, including both perceptions of the objective measures and culturally embedded meanings and understandings, for example, of what is a “nice” or “large” house. A review by the IOM of several studies reveals mixed results depending on context, but generally supports the view that migrants experience enhanced wellbeing compared to non-migrants (IOM 2013, 114–170).

How Does the M&D Frame Relate to the Integration Process, and Vice Versa?

In this final part of the chapter we link the discussion on M&D to the main theme of this book, integration. In doing so, we investigate a relationship between two areas of policy discussion—that on the integration of migrants in Europe and other advanced countries, and that on development in poor countries—that are usually kept separate. We also need to remind ourselves that integration is a multi-sphered process, including amongst others the legal-political, socio-economic, and cultural-religious realms, each of which contains various aspects, for example, housing, employment, education, voting rights, membership in ethnic organizations, and so on. We start by continuing the framing of migration within a transnational perspective, as this allows us to consider migrants’ simultaneous acceptance as part of different social worlds—those of their origin and destination society and possibly, too, of a third, diasporic social space. From an integration perspective, two questions then arise. First, what is the relationship between migrants’ integration process, or their “state” of integration, in the host society, and the impact this has on their capacity or willingness to instigate or participate in development in their countries, regions, and communities of origin? Second, for those who return migrate, how does the reintegration process proceed? This latter question has been little studied.

In their essay on African migrants in Europe, Grillo and Mazzucato (2008) argue that such migrants are “doubly engaged” in both places, “here” and “there”. It must be stressed that not all migrants lead transnational lives. Some eventually become assimilated and detached from their origin countries, while others, refugees, may not be able to engage with their homeland which, for them, may no longer exist as such. However, those who do live transnationally experience this double engagement in three domains: material livelihoods, family relations, and socio-cultural identity (Grillo and Mazzucato 2008, 185–191). In her more detailed study of Ghanaian migrants based in the Netherlands, Mazzucato (2008) shows that they are active in the labour market and participate in the Dutch economy at the neighbourhood, city, and national levels. At the same time, and more importantly for them, they invest back in Ghana in housing, businesses, and family members’ wellbeing and education, including donations to funerals. They are thus economically (as well as socially and culturally) integrated in both places. In one sense this is a zero-sum relationship: economic resources invested in the Netherlands, for instance, on accommodation, living costs, and consumer goods, cannot be deployed in Ghana. On the other hand, there is also a positive synergy in that the more economically successful a migrant is in the Netherlands, the more resources are generated for “development” back home. This leads us directly to a more formal theoretical and empirical examination of the key question: How does “integration” impact on home-country development?

One interesting framework for answering this question is Cerase’s (1974) model of the relationship between integration and return migration. Based on a case study of Italian return migration from the USA in the early post-war decades (243 returnees were interviewed in various parts of Italy), Cerase tried to demonstrate that the impact of return was dependent on the time spent abroad and, in particular, on the stage of the integration process that the migrant had reached at the time when the return took place. The author proposed a model with four outcome phases. The first phase is when the migrant fails to adjust to the new society (integration is thus minimal) and return takes place after a very short time (within a year or so). Upon return, such migrants are absorbed as if they had never left. Cerase calls this the return of failure and posits that this has no impact on development. In phase two, the immigrant stays abroad longer, but remains oriented towards the homeland and the notion of return there. Some integration in US society takes place, but not much. This type of returnee has their sights fixed on a return to the old ways, but with an improved socio-economic status due to the ability to purchase agricultural land or to build a new house. Whilst some new attitudes and behaviours have been absorbed from the USA, such as a greater respect for social justice and a more open and informal mentality, the developmental effects of this kind of return remain limited. This is termed the return of conservatism. For those who remain abroad yet longer, the integration process becomes more advanced and migrants become increasingly attuned to US society and its ways of life and values. This also diminishes the likelihood of return, but for those who do go back, the potential for real developmental impact is greater. This third phase, the return of innovation, brings new ideas, energies, and business practices which, provided there is fertile terrain for their application in the homeland context, can indeed stimulate development. Such returnees are, however, a minority in the overall return-migrant population, and their desire and potential for change are often stifled by the entrenched power of local non-migrant elites. The final stage of return is that of retirement, when well-integrated migrants feel the pull of nostalgia at the end of their working lives; but, being economically inactive, their developmental impact is limited.

Although the Cerase model is intuitively attractive and logical, and has been much cited, its limitations are obvious. Its interpretation of development is largely “economic modernization”, and it reduces integration to a one-dimensional linear process. A more robust and nuanced conceptualization of integration is developed in studies that statistically model various dimensions of integration according to a variety of transnational orientations towards the home country including remittance-sending, paying regular visits, and attitudes towards return migration (see Cela et al. 2013; De Haas and Fokkema 2011; Fokkema et al. 2013). What these studies tend to demonstrate is that migrants who are economically well integrated in the host country are more likely to have meaningful transnational engagement with their origin-country society, including sending remittances and other actions with positive developmental outcomes, such as business investment. On the other hand, migrants who are socio-culturally well integrated are more likely to become detached from their home country and therefore less actively involved in transnational activities that might lead to development. This contrasting correlation—positive between economic integration, transnationalism, and development and negative for socio-cultural integration’s impact—seems to hold for both first- and second-generation migrants, according to the studies cited above, which are based on a variety of migrant groups in different countries.6 Alongside these quantitative analyses are studies that take a more intuitive approach. Erdal and Oeppen (2013) describe the relationship between integration and transnationalism as a “balancing act” whereby the migrant straddles two societies. Reviewing the literature, Erdal and Oeppen (2013, 875) find that outcomes are highly context-specific, depending on place, type of migration, and within the same migration system, also varying over time (see also Snel et al. 2006). One issue with Erdal and Oeppen’s analysis, and with other studies that examine the integration–transnationalism interface, is the extent to which transnationalism equates to “development” of the origin society. Where remittances and investments are involved, the link is fairly clear (albeit dependent on how these financial flows are utilized), but given that some authors (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004; Vertovec 1999) view transnationalism as both “ways of being” and “ways of belonging”, the developmental aspect is less obvious.

The fact remains that further research is sorely needed on the relationship between integration (and its multifaceted elements) and engagement in home-country development. Shifting understandings of what integration actually is, and what policies should be applied along the spectrum from multiculturalism to assimilation, serve only to complicate the M&D relationship. Critics of multiculturalism argue that it has proven detrimental to economic integration, leading instead to cultural and religious separatism, which threatens national identity. The widespread view that multiculturalism has somehow “failed” leads many countries to adopt more assimilationist-oriented policies towards immigrants. What implications this has for the developmental potential of migration is not clear. There is the argument, advanced by Castles et al. (2014, 80):

[I]mmigrant-receiving governments can increase the developmental potential of migration by lowering the thresholds for immigration… and through favouring the socioeconomic integration of migrants by countering discrimination and racism on the labour market and giving them access to housing and education as well as residency and (dual) citizenship rights.

Yet, as we also noted, recent trends towards more demand-driven temporary and circular migration ignore the integration dimension and do nothing to foster long-term settlement rights.

The final question addressed in this chapter concerns the phenomenon of migrants’ reintegration in their home countries, and the developmental context of this process. This question was broached early on in the return–development debate (see, e.g., Van Gendt 1977) but, to the best of our knowledge, it has never been thoroughly investigated, neither at the theoretical nor at the empirical level.7 Theoretically, the key questions would seem to be the following: Does integration into the immigration country’s host society imply a process of “de-integration” from the home-country society? Is gradual re-acceptance as part of the (home) society contingent on a gradual loss of acceptance in the former destination? Or does the opposite apply, namely, that the personal skills and social and human capital required for rapid and successful acceptance as part of a new host society are also effective in enabling a smooth reintegration upon return? Early sociological studies of return migration—for example, by Saloutos (1956) on returning Greek-Americans and Lopreato (1967) on the impact of return migration on a South Italian village—tend to show that long-absent migrants face difficulties in reintegrating back home. At best they formed a nouveau riche group interposed between the traditional elites and the peasant or working class from which they had been drawn. Local people often viewed them with a mixture of suspicion and jealousy. But these studies are from an earlier era of long-distance migration, when the socio-economic and cultural divide between sending and receiving countries constituted a wider time–space gap. Nowadays, with many migrants engaged in more intense transnational circuits of personal travel, financial flows, and other transactions, as well as the globalization of information and cultural codes, the outcome is likely to be different. However, the wealth of theoretical concepts and analytical tools that have been applied to study the process of migrant integration in Europe and elsewhere has yet to be turned to the study of return migrants’ reintegration. Here is a major empirical challenge for migration studies scholars working in a developmental context.


Researchers, analysts, and policymakers continue to struggle in comprehending the nature of the multiple relationships between migration, development, and integration. As we have seen, at least three obstacles stand in the way of a mature and nuanced understanding: problems of definition and measurement of all three phenomena; ideological positions that are impossible to reconcile; and the conflicting and hence inconclusive nature of the empirical evidence, too much of which is based on narrowly defined case studies. The way forward is not easy to identify. Migration, (under)development, and (non-)integration are all “facts of global life”, which are not easily managed towards desired positive outcomes, except perhaps at a fairly local level. Individual linkages, for instance, between emigration and home-country development or between different models of integration and willingness to invest time and resources in developing hometown communities, are difficult to isolate within the matrix of collateral processes such as economic cycles, different and dynamic host-country politics, and the new post-9/11 security environment. The mid-2014 round of European and local elections, furthermore, was marked by a sharp rise in voters’ support for anti-immigration parties in some countries (particularly the UK, France, and Greece). In an increasingly xenophobic climate, rhetoric obscures analysis, and migration’s potential contribution to home-country development is pushed to the background.

Proponents of the virtuous-circle view of M&D thus find themselves squeezed between those who call ever-louder for migration control and those who criticize the entire edifice of the M&D nexus in the neoliberal era and are moving the pendulum towards its fourth, neo-pessimistic swing (Delgado Wise and Márquez Covarrubias 2011; Gamlen 2014; Kunz 2008; Page and Mercer 2012; Raghuram 2009). A key question thus becomes how to stop the pendulum swinging. An obvious answer is to move towards a more rigorous evaluation of existing research evidence, downgrading the significance of small-scale case studies and privileging larger scale and especially comparative studies. Even so, challenges remain, given the diversity of types of migration (e.g., short and long term, high and low skilled) and of historical and geographical contexts. Undoubtedly, there is more scope for analysis of global-scale socio-economic datasets and migration variables related to development outcomes (e.g., Czaika 2013; Ngoma and Ismail 2013; Sanderson 2013) and perhaps also of socio-economic and legal-political integration variables.

The way forward is also for more collaboration and cross-fertilization to take place across three main areas of scholarship and policymaking that hitherto have not spoken much to each other: those who study migration as a process of transnational movement; those who study development; and those who study integration and social cohesion. This conversation needs to take place across disciplines, between those with research and policy experience in different parts of the world, and at multiple scales of analysis, from the global down through the regional (such as the EU), to countries, cities, communities, and households.Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


  1. 1.

    Ravenstein’s original papers were published in 1885and 1889. For an accessible and sympathetic critique see Grigg (1977).

  2. 2.

    After the 2004 enlargement, the UK, Ireland, and Sweden immediately opened their labour markets to the entry of workers from the ten accession countries. A much larger influx than expected took place, especially of Poles to the UK and Ireland. Nevertheless, these labour migrants helped to underpin the economic boom that lasted until the 2008 financial crisis. For an in-depth analysis of this East–west development-inducing migration, see Black et al. (2010), Galgoczi et al. (2009), and Glorius et al. (2013).

  3. 3.

    The correlations are higher when the analysis is applied to groupings of countries linked by regional immigration systems: +0.81 for Europe, Turkey, and the Maghreb and +0.73 for the Americas (Fischer et al. 1997, 95).

  4. 4.

    See, amongst others, the results of the REMPLOD project in Turkey (Abadan-Unat et al. 1976), research by Cerase (1974) and King et al. (1986) on Southern Italy, and by Rhodes (1978) on Spain.

  5. 5.

    The European Commission’s first Communication on Migration and Development was published in 2002 (COM (2002) 703 final) and presented development as little more than a means of migration control. This had changed by the next Communication in 2005 (COM (2005) 390 final) (see Collyer 2011). The most recent Commission paper, Maximising the Development Impact of Migration, published in October 2013 (COM (2013) 292 final), marks a further step-change in EU discourse. It focuses on internal migration, the impact of climate change, country-of-origin perspectives, and the mobility turn, amongst other things, and is framed by a discourse on the rights of migrants. This is not to say that this change is reflected in EU practice, but it marks an important shift in emphasis of the political dialogue, which is now radically different from a decade earlier.

  6. 6.

    To be specific, Cela et al. (2013) look at Eastern Europeans (Poles, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Romanians, and Albanians) in Italy; De Haas and Fokkema (2011) study African migrants in Southern Europe (Moroccans and Senegalese in Spain, Egyptians and Ghanaians in Italy); whilst Fokkema et al. (2013) examine the remittance behaviour of second-generation Turks, Moroccans, and people of Yugoslav heritage in several European cities.

  7. 7.

    Indicative of this lacuna is the recent Metropolis public seminar Migrant Reintegration and Homeland Development, Ottowa, 14 March 2014, designed to ‘discuss the development potential offered by the continuum of migrant integration, return, and reintegration into the homeland’.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Global StudiesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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