In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Voluntary International Migration

  • Introduction
  • Classification of International Mobility
  • Migration Processes

International Relations Voluntary International Migration
Jeannette Money, Sara S. Kazemian, Timothy W. Taylor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0167


Although migration has been a human phenomenon from time immemorial, international migration in the contemporary sense is usually dated from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which created a state system and the concept of state sovereignty with the associated power to control borders. Migration is usually divided into two categories, “forced” and “voluntary.” This is a useful dividing line, even though it is widely acknowledged that migrants have multiple reasons for moving and that there is often no clear dividing line to distinguish “forced” versus “voluntary” migrants. This article covers only voluntary international migration, both short term and long term. It does not cover the research on forced migration flows (refugees and asylum seekers) as defined in the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 and 1967). International migration—defined as individuals living outside their country of origin for more than one year—remains the exception rather than the rule. The decline of transportation and communication costs has increased human mobility, with international travel expanding exponentially since the Second World War. Although the absolute number of migrants continues to increase, as a proportion of the population, international migration has remained relatively stable, running around 3 percent of the global population. International migrants travel in all directions, with at least half moving within the Global South. However, the distribution of international migrants is not uniform; typically migrants move from poorer, more unstable states to wealthier, more stable states. And international migration has become a salient political issue virtually everywhere: in receiving societies, in sending societies, and even in transit societies. So a bibliographical article on the various dimensions of international migration is timely. In this second edition, updated through June 2019, the citations in each section have expanded and sections have been added to reflect the breadth and depth of contemporary research. Subsequent to the overview of international migration and migration processes, the literature is organized around six themes: the economic consequences of immigration; immigration control and enforcement; specific migration flows; immigrant incorporation; migration governance, including migrant rights; and linkages between international migration and other international issues, such as security, trade, aid, and development. This article reflects scholarship on international migration produced in the Global North and/or published in globally prominent scholarly journals. Additional resources, in regional or national journals and books, are often referenced in the articles and books cited in this bibliography.

General Overviews

The research on international migration is so broad and interdisciplinary that few books provide a general overview of the field. In the Textbooks section, six suggested readings are given. As research on international migration has exploded, various presses are publishing handbooks that present scholarly research on specific issues. The Resources section lists a recent spate of edited volumes that bring together scholars from the various disciplines who focus on specific dimensions of migration as a central research issue. We also include a compendium of international legal instruments dealing with migration.

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