Migration Mechanisms of the Middle Range: On the Concept of Reverse Cumulative Causation

  • Godfried Engbersen
  • Erik Snel
  • Alina Esteves
Part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship book series (MDC)


In a recent collection of articles on the significance of the work by the American sociologist R.K. Merton, Charles Tilly (2010, p. 55) argued for mechanism-based explanations of the middle range. In his own words, ‘mechanistic explanations offer a distinctive, superior grasp of how social processes actually work’. Tilly’s plea fits in a development in which mechanism-based explanations are increasingly gaining attention. This development is in response to shortcomings in causal explanations and is also expressive of the conviction that proper explanations should detail the ‘cogs and wheels’ or the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the causal process through which the outcomes to be explained are brought about (Elster, 1989; Hedström and Ylikoski, 2010; Tilly, 2005; 2010). Another important factor is the explicit interest in developing a theory of action that combines explanations at the macro-level with explanations at the micro-level (Coleman, 1986; 1990).


Destination Country Return Migrant Potential Migrant Migration Policy Migration Mechanism 
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© Godfried Engbersen, Erik Snel and Alina Esteves 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Godfried Engbersen
  • Erik Snel
  • Alina Esteves

There are no affiliations available

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