Combining economics and sociology in migration theory

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Abstract

This paper considers some of the impediments to interdisciplinary integration in migration theory, focusing on the problem of combining economics and sociology. It argues that neoclassical economics has a number of methodological advantages, deriving from its elegant theoretical structure and its aptitude for measuring and predicting individual behaviour. However, these features are contingent on a number of simplifying assumptions about social action: Namely, a commitment to methodological individualism, a uniform conception of rationality, and a theory of individuals as utility-maximising. These assumptions become untenable in the case of migration decision-making, which partially accounts for the failure of economics theories adequately to explain and predict migration flows. Instead of rejecting such approaches, however, the article suggests how economics methodologies can be usefully applied within interdisciplinary research: Either as a tool for modelling patterns of migration decision-making already observed through more qualitative methodologies; or as a means of testing and ruling out certain hypotheses about migration decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-566
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2008

Keywords

  • economics
  • methodologies in migration research
  • migration theory
  • sociology

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