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This paper explores the role of internal (within country) and international (bilateral and global) relative and absolute deprivation in international migration. It is argued that these three forms of relative deprivation need to be taken into account simultaneously to advance our theoretical understanding of the complex drivers of migration processes. Empirical analysis based on a large sample of bilateral migrant stock data suggests that absolute deprivation constrains emigration, while international relative deprivation and internal relative deprivation in destination countries may increase migration. The effect of internal relative deprivation in origin countries seems small and somewhat ambiguous. The results highlight the complex and potentially counter-intuitive ways in which relative and absolute deprivation may affect migration. This paper suggests that it would be unfounded to expect that decreases in international and internal relative deprivation combined with reductions in absolute deprivation would lead to a significant decline in the volume of international migration.

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Journal article


Oxford Development Studies

Publication Date



40 (4)


423 - 442

Total pages