The Social and Economic Origins of Immigration

Douglas S. Massey

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199 Scopus citations


Contemporary immigration patterns represent a sharp break from the past, when international movements were dominated by flows out of Europe to a few key destination areas. Europe has now become a region of immigration, and, like other developed regions, it draws migrants from a variety of Third World countries. The large-scale movement of immigrants from developing to developed regions has both economic and social foundations. Economically, immigration originates not from simple wage differentials between poor and rich countries but from the spread of economic development to rapidly growing Third World populations and from a persistent demand for low-wage workers in developed nations. Immigration has many social foundations, but the formation of migrant networks is probably the most important. Networks build into the migration process a self-perpetuating momentum that leads to its growth over time, in spite of fluctuating wage differentials, recessions, and increasingly restrictive immigration policies in developed countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-72
Number of pages13
JournalThe ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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