Chapter 1

The Political Economy of Migration in an Era of Globalization

By Douglas S. Massey

In this chapter, sociologist Douglas S. Massey points out that today’s increasingly aggressive official restrictions on borders and immigration stand in contradiction with the progressive freeing up of international trade in all areas, bringing unnecessarily high costs to the U.S. government and creating highly negative effects for migrants. While skeptical of the ability of governments to stanch immigration flows, he provides realistic recommendations for policies that might permit liberal democratic regimes to manage immigration with greater efficiency and respect for human rights. Of particular interest to scholars of international migration, Massey’s concluding comments anticipate what kinds of new research might still be needed to guide nations toward more effective and enlightened immigration policies.

Study Questions

  1. According to each of the following theories (neoclassical economics, new economics of labor migration, world systems segmented labor markets, social capital, cumulative causation), what conditions lead people to migrate to another country in search of work?
  2. What are the conditions that Massey says most strongly influence government policy toward immigration?

Critical Thinking

  1. Can different theories of migration be linked together to describe different moments in a larger “story,” of how a particular individual or the people of a region or village end up leaving home for a far away place?
  2. Relate the theories described and analyzed in Massey’s chapter to one or more of the cases that are examined in the chapters of part IV of this book, “Beyond U.S. Borders.”
  3. On p.33, Massey states, “in the next century developed countries will increasingly move to restrict in-migration from the developing world.” Agree/disagree with that prediction, and briefly explain why.