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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.

1. Does underdevelopment cause outmigration?

2. Does outmigration then lead to further underdevelopment?

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

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

Fig. 10.1 Migration and (under)development: two scenarios (Source: Authors)

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))

 
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