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What are the different factors that shape migration patterns across the world and how do they interact with each other? How do changing levels of socioeconomic development affect shifting migration practices and directions? Do migration policies have a significant impact on people’s migration decisions – or are trade, labour market or welfare policies in origin and destination countries more important? What theoretical approaches can help us to make sense of this complex array of determinants operating across different social, spatial and temporal scales?

This conference was organised as the culmination of the DEMIG project – Determinants of International Migration: A Theoretical and Empirical Assessment of Policy, Origin and Destination Effects. The aim of this interdisciplinary conference were to advance evidence-based and theoretical understanding of such determinants of migration processes. While there is a plethora of research on the social, cultural and economic impacts of migration, research on the determinants of migration has remained relatively under-researched and under-theorized. Although there is consensus that various contextual factors in origin and destination countries, policies and social networks all play some role in driving migration, there are conflicting views on their effects, relative importance and interaction.

In the absence of any general theory of migration that can tie together all these different elements, significant progress can be achieved by integrating theoretical insights from different disciplines and fields of empirical research that specialise on particular themes and migrant categories. To advance this agenda, this conference brought together migration scholars to discuss theoretical and empirical avenues for advancing the understanding of the drivers of migration processes.

Conference themes

The role of development in migration processes

How do economic and demographic transitions, as well as human development in origin and destination countries, affect patterns of immigration and emigration? Is Zelinsky’s (1971) model of the ‘mobility transition’ still useful for explaining contemporary and future migration? How do processes of development and social transformation affect people’s aspirations and capabilities and their decisions in terms of whether, when, how, where and for how long to migrate?

The role of states and policies in migration processes

How do states and their migration and non-migration (e.g., trade, labour market, welfare) policies in origin and destination countries affect the size, timing, duration, direction and composition of international migration? Are borders largely ‘beyond control’ or are migration policies relatively effective? How large is the effect of policies when taking into account other migration determinants?

Migration theories

Advancing migration theory is essential in building a shared body of generalised knowledge that can also serve as a guide for further research. How can different theories on the causes of migration be combined? To what extent do their conflicting underlying assumptions present an obstacle to such integration? How can we better connect migration theory to general theories of social change and development?


DEMIG is core-funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement 240940. Additional support for this conference has been acquired through the Drivers and Dynamics of High-Skilled Migration project, which complements DEMIG and is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. IMI is a member of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, and received additional funding from Dr James Martin (1933-2013) (founder of the School) to match the ERC grant for DEMIG.