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Determinants of International Migration (DEMIG)


Project description

DEMIG (Determinants of International Migration) is a research programme which aims to generate new theoretical and empirical insights into the way states and policies shape migration processes in their interaction with other migration determinants.

Between 2010 and 2014, the programme was core-funded by the European Research Council (ERC) through a Starting Grant awarded to Hein de Haas, Co-Director at the International Migration Institute. The programme received additional funding from the Oxford Martin School.

DEMIG has compiled new migration flow, policy and visa databases and generated a series of theoretical and empirical research papers. In future years, DEMIG aims to further expand the geographical and historical coverage of databases, as well as the scope of analysis through international collaborations.

Working Paper: The Determinants of International Migration: Conceptualising Policy, Origin and Destination Effects

Research objectives

The effectiveness of migration policies has been widely contested in the face of their hypothesized failure to steer migration and their unintended effects on the volume, timing, direction and composition of international migration. Due to serious methodological flaws and significant data gaps, most evidence has remained largely descriptive, biased and partial until recently, omitting crucial sending country and policy variables.

More fundamentally, the controversy around the effectiveness of migration policies reveals a still limited theoretical understanding of the forces driving international migration. Although there is consensus that macro-contextual factors in sending and receiving countries, policies, as well as ‘internal dynamics’ such as networks all play some role, there is no agreement on their relative weight and mutual interaction.

DEMIG aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What has been the nature, structure and evolution of global migration in the 1950-2010 period?
  2. What has been the nature and evolution of immigration and emigration policies in the 1950-2010 period?
  3. How do states and migration policies affect the (i) volume; (ii) timing; (iii) duration; (iv) direction; and (v) composition of international migration?


In order to fill these theoretical and empirical gaps, DEMIG aims to generate new insights into the way states and policies shape migration processes in their interaction with other receiving and sending country migration determinants. This is achieved by embedding the empirical analysis of policy effects on migration flows into a new theoretical framework on the processes and determinants of migration.

DEMIG is built around four theoretical and empirical components:

1. Elaboration of a new theoretical framework on migration as intrinsic part of development and social transformation.

2. Conceptualisation of the effectiveness and effects of migration policies and the role of states in origin and destination countries in migration process.

3. Creation of longitudinal databases compiling bilateral migration flow, visa and migration policy data:

  • DEMIG TOTAL reports total immigration, emigration and net migration for 163 countries extending back to over one century;
  • DEMIG C2C (‘country-to-country’) covers bilateral migration flow data for 34 reporting countries mainly covering the 1946-2011 period;
  • DEMIG POLICY tracks over 6,500 migration policy changes in 45 countries over the 1946-2013 period; and
  • DEMIG VISA is a global panel of bilateral entry and exit travel visa requirements covering the 1973-2013 period.

4. Empirical studies on the role of states and policies in migration processes:

  • Quantitative tests on the effects of migration policies applying a double comparative, longitudinal desig; and
  • Qualitative case studies and comparisons to gain a deeper understanding of the role of states and border regimes in migration processes.

Research team


European Research Council (ERC)

DEMIG was core-funded through an ERC Starting Grant. Starting Grants aim to support the creation of excellent new research teams to conduct pioneering frontier research in any field of science, engineering and scholarship. The European Research Council was launched in January 2007 with a mandate to award basic-research grants solely on the judgment of panels of scientific reviewers. The aim is to create the first large, pan-European competition for basic research.

Oxford Martin School

DEMIG has received additional funds through a matching grant of the Oxford Martin School, enabling a significant expansion of research capacity and the coverage of DEMIG databases.

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DEMIG Conference

DEMIG rectangle

'Determinants of International Migration' conference. 23–25 September 2014 | Wolfson College, University of Oxford.


A wide range of publications have been produced as outputs of DEMIG including: