International Migration and Development

  • Hania Zlotnik


This chapter presents newly derived estimates of net migration flows by origin and destination spanning the four decades between 1960 and 2010. These estimates support the proposition that the economic development process itself tends to stimulate migration. Thus, low-income countries, where the development process is lagging behind, are the least likely sources of international migrants, whereas countries where the development process is more advanced, including both middle-income and certain high-income countries, are more likely to be important sources of international migrants. The estimates also corroborate the growing importance of “south-to-north” migration and show that migration among developed countries, far from ceasing, has been on the rise. This chapter then describes the most influential economic theories guiding research on international migration and development, and reviews research on the linkages between the selectivity of international migration and wages, and on the impact of remittances on developing countries. In receiving countries of the developed world, most of which have been increasingly selecting migrants on the basis of skills, the impact of recent migration on wages has tended to be small and largely beneficial. Because skilled persons seek high absolute wages, rich countries attract them, often to the detriment of countries of origin, particularly developing countries with small populations where the stock of skilled persons was small to start with. The boom in global remittances associated with high emigration from middle-income to high-income countries has been contributing to improve the livelihoods of millions of people. The studies reviewed show that remittances not only ensure a satisfactory level of consumption for their recipients and their families, but are also used to improve agricultural productivity or to invest in small or micro-enterprises. In several contexts, remittances increase the school enrollment of children in households with migrants abroad. More generally, remittances boost household incomes and reduce poverty.


Net migration trends Labor migration Remittances Migration selectivity Migration and development 


  1. Acosta, P. (2006). Labor supply, school attendance and remittances from international migration: The cases of El Salvador. World Bank paper no 3903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Acosta, P. (2011). School attendance, child labour and remittances from international migration in El Salvador. Journal of Development Studies, 47(6), 933–936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams, R. H., Jr. (2007). International remittances and the household: Analysis and review of global evidence (Policy research working paper, no. 4116). Washington, DC: The World Bank. Scholar
  4. Adams, R. H., Jr. (2011). Evaluating the economic impact of international remittances on developing countries using household surveys: A literature review. Journal of Development Studies, 47, 809–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Adams, R. H., Jr., & Cuecuecha, A. (2010a). The economic impact of international remittances on poverty and household consumption and investment in Indonesia (Policy research working paper no. 5433). Washington, DC: The World Bank.
  6. Adams, R. H., Jr., & Cuecuecha, A. (2010b). Remittances, household expenditure and investment in Guatemala. World Development, 38(11), 1626–1641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Adams, R. H., Jr., & Cuecuecha, A. (2013,October). The impact of remittances on investment and poverty in Ghana. World Development, 50, 24–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Adams, R. H., Jr., & Page, J. (2005). Do international migration and remittances reduce poverty in developing countries? World Development, 33(10), 1645–1669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Adams, R. H., Jr., Cuecuecha, A., & Page, J. (2008a). Remittances, consumption and investment in Ghana (Policy research working paper no. 4515). Washington, DC: World Bank. Scholar
  10. Adams, R. H., Jr., Cuecuecha, A., & Page, J. (2008b). The impact of remittances on poverty and inequality in Ghana (Policy research working paper no. 4732). Washington, DC: World Bank. Scholar
  11. Amuedo-Dorantes, C., & Pozo, S. (2010). Accounting for remittance and migration effects on children’s schooling. World Development, 38(12), 1747–1759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bahar, D., & Rapoport, H. (2016). Migration, knowledge diffusion and the comparative advantage of nations (Working Paper No. 5769). Center for Economic Studies and IFO Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Benjamin, D., & Brandt, L. (1998). Administrative land allocation, nascent labor markets, and farm efficiency in Rural China (Working paper). Toronto: Department of Economics, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  14. Borjas, G. J. (1987). Self-selection and the earnings of immigrants. The American Economic Review, 77(4), 531–553.Google Scholar
  15. Borjas, G. J., & Bronars, S. G. (1990). Immigration and the family (Working paper w3509). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  16. Chiswick, B. R., & Hatton, T. J. (2002). International migration and the integration of labor markets (IZA discussion paper no. 559).Google Scholar
  17. Cox-Edwards, A., & Ureta, M. (2003). International migration, remittances and schooling: Evidence from El Salvador. Journal of Development Economics, 72(2), 429–461.Google Scholar
  18. Docquier, F., Özden, Ç., & Peri, G. (2010). The wage effects of immigration and emigration (Working paper 16646). National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  19. Felbermayr, G., Grossmann, V., & Kohler, W. (2015). Migration, international trade, and capital formation: Cause or effect? In B. Chiswick & P. W. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of international migration, vol. 1B: The impact and regional studies (pp. 913–1026). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  20. Greenwood, J. M. (1985). Human migration: Theory, models, and empirical studies. Journal of Regional Science, 25(4), 521–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grogger, J., & Hanson, G. H. (2011). Income maximization and the selection and sorting of international migrants. Journal of Development Economics, 95(1), 42–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gurak, D. T., & Caces, F. (1992). Migration networks and the shaping of migration systems. In M. Mary, L. L. L. Kritz, & H. Zlotnik (Eds.), International migration systems: A global approach (pp. 150–176). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gustafsson, B. A., & Makonnen, N. (1993). Poverty and remittances in Lesotho. Journal of African Economies, 2(1), 49–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harris, J. R., & Todaro, M. P. (1970). Migration, unemployment, and development: A two sector model. American Economic Review (Nashville, Tennessee), (60), 126–142.Google Scholar
  25. Jakob, P. H. (2015). The impact of migration and remittances on children’s education in El Salvador (Master’s theses 139).
  26. Karpestam, P., & Andersson, F. N. G. (2013). Economic perspectives on migration. In S. J. Gold & S. J. Nawyn (Eds.), Routledge international handbook of migration studies. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Kluger, M., & Rapoport, H. (2005). Skilled emigration, business networks and foreign direct investment (Working paper no. 1455). Center for Economic Studies and IFO Institute.Google Scholar
  28. Kluger, M., & Rapoport, H. (2007). International labor and capital flows: Complements or substitutes? Economics Letters, 94(2), 155–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Leblang, D. (2011). Another link in the chain: Migrant networks and international investment. In S. Plaza & D. Ratha (Eds.), Diaspora for development in Africa (pp. 231–259). Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  30. Lewis, W. A. (1954). Economic development with unlimited supplies of labor. The Manchester School, 22(2), 139–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. López-Córdova, E. (2005). Globalization, migration, and development: The role of Mexican migrant remittances. Economia, 6(1), 217–256.Google Scholar
  32. Massey, D. S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Pellegrino, A., & Edward Taylor, J. (1993). Theories of international migration: A review and appraisal. Population and Development Review, 19(3), 431–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mata, R. S. (2009). Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) on the remittances market: Money transfer activity and savings mobilization (CEB working paper no 09/022). Université Libre de Bruxelles – Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management.Google Scholar
  34. Mincer, J. (1978). Family migration decisions. Journal of Political Economy, 86(5), 749–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Newland, K., & Plaza, S.. (2013). What we know about diasporas and economic development (Migration policy institute policy brief no. 5).Google Scholar
  36. Papademetriou, D. G., & Martin, P. L. (Eds.). (1991). The unsettled relationship: Labor migration and economic development. New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  37. Pedersen, P. J., Pytlikova, M., & Smith, N. (2004). Selection or network effects? Migration flows into 27 OECD countries, 1990–2000 (IZA discussion papers no. 1104).Google Scholar
  38. Plaza, S. (2013). Diaspora resources and policies. In A. F. Constant & K. F. Zimmermann (Eds.), International handbook on the economics of migration (pp. 505–529). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  39. Plaza, S., & Ratha, D. (Eds.). (2011). Diaspora for development in Africa. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  40. Ranis, G., & Fei, J. H. C. (1961). A theory of economic development. American Economic Review, 51, 533–565.Google Scholar
  41. Ratha, D. (2013). The impact of remittances on economic growth and poverty reduction (Policy brief no. 8). Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  42. Rozelle, S., Edward Taylor, J., & de Brauw, A. (1999). Migration, remittances, and agricultural productivity in China. American Economic Review, 89(2), 287–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ruhs, M. (2013). The price of rights: Regulating international labor migration. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sjaastad, L. A. (1962). The costs and returns of human migration. Journal of Political Economy (Chicago, Illinois), (705), 80–93.Google Scholar
  45. Stark, O. (1991). The migration of labor. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  46. Stark, O., & Levhari, D. (1982). On migration and risk in LDCs. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 31, 191–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stark, O., & Taylor, J. E. (1989). Relative deprivation and international migration. Demography (Washington, DC), 26(1), 1–14.Google Scholar
  48. Tadesse, B., & White, R. (2015). Do immigrants reduce bilateral trade costs? An empirical test. Applied Economics Letters, 22(14), 1127–1132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Taylor, J. E. (1992). Remittances and inequality reconsidered: Direct, indirect and intertemporal effects. Journal of Policy Modeling, 14(2), 187–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Taylor, J. E., & Castelhano, M. (2016). Economic impacts of migrant remittances. In M. White (Ed.), International handbook of migration and population distribution. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  51. Taylor, J. E., & Filipski, M. J. (2014). Beyond experiments in development economics: Local economy-wide impact evaluation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Taylor, J. E., & Lopez-Feldman, A. (2010). Does migration make rural households more productive? Evidence from Mexico. The Journal of Development Studies, 46(1), 68–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Taylor, J. E., & Wyatt, T. J. (1996). The shadow value of migrant remittances, income and inequality in a household-farm economy. Journal of Development Studies, 32(6), 899–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Taylor, J. E., Rozelle, S., & de Brauw, A. (2003). Migration and incomes in source communities: A new economics of migration perspective from China. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 52(1), 75–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Todaro, M. P. (1969). A model of labor migration and urban unemployment in less developed countries. The American Economic Review, 59(1), 138–148.Google Scholar
  56. Todaro, M. P. (1976). Internal migration in developing countries. Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  57. Todaro, M. P. (1980). Internal migration in developing countries: A survey. In R. A. Easterlin (Ed.), Population change in developing countries (pp. 361–402). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  58. Todaro, M. P., & Maruszko, L. (1987). Illegal migration and US immigration reform: A conceptual framework. Population and Development Review, 13, 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. United Nations. (2006). International migration and development (A/60/871).Google Scholar
  60. United Nations. (2016). Report of the inter-agency and expert group on sustainable development goal indicators (E/CN.3/2016/2/Rev.1), Annex IV.Google Scholar
  61. United Nations Population Division. (2005). Trends in total migrant stock: The 2005 Revision. New York: United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Rev.2005.Google Scholar
  62. United Nations Population Division. (2015a). Trends in international migrant stock: The 2015 revision (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2015).Google Scholar
  63. United Nations Population Division. (2015b). Trends in international migrant stock: migrants by destination and origin (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2015).Google Scholar
  64. United Nations Population Division. (2017). World population prospects: The 2017 revision (United Nations database, POP/DB/WPP/Rev.2017/POP/F01-1).Google Scholar
  65. Woodruff, C., & Zenteno, R. (2007). Migration networks and microenterprises in Mexico. Journal of Development Economics, 82(2007), 509–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. World Bank. (2006a). Global economic prospects. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  67. World Bank. (2006b). Resilience amidst conflict: An assessment of poverty in Nepal, 1995–96 and 2003–04. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  68. World Bank. (2015). Global economic prospects: Having fiscal space and using it. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  69. World Bank. (2017). Migration and remittances: Recent developments and outlook (Migration and development brief 28). Washington, DC: The World Bank Group.Google Scholar
  70. Wouterse, F., & Taylor, J. E. (2006, August 12–18). Migration and income diversification: evidence from Burkina Faso. Paper presented at the International Association of Agricultural Economists Conference, Gold Coast.Google Scholar
  71. Yang, D. (2006). International migration, remittances, and household investment: Evidence from Philippine migrants’ exchange rate shocks (Working Paper 12325). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  72. Yang, D., & Martínez, C. A. (2006). Remittances and poverty in migrants’ home areas: Evidence from the Philippines. In Ç. Ozden & M. Schiff (Eds.), International migration, remittances and brain drain (pp. 81–122). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hania Zlotnik
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ConsultantNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations