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The Economics of Migrations: Lessons from History, Theoretical Debates and Methodological Issues.

Editors: Estefania Santacreu-Vasut, Jean-Sébastien Lenfant

Deadline for submission: October 15th, 2011.

Planned publication of the issue: 2012

Until recently, economic theory and policy regarding trade and development was based on the idea that commodity movements are to some extent a substitute to factor movements. This idea goes back to the classical theory of international specialization and was given momentum in the works of Hecksher and Ohlin in the first half of the twentieth century: Migrations and labor flows were then essentially explained through a theory of human capital and wage differentials.

Nevertheless, over the past thirty years, the theory of (international) migrations has developed extensively. Actually, even in a standard framework, and even more under imperfect competition assumptions, labor flows and commodity flows are only imperfect substitutes and can be complementary. More, there has been a blooming of alternative models and inquiries into the causes and consequences of migrations in terms of migration cycles, self-selection, welfare magnets, income inequality, migration objective and subjective costs, motivations to remit, brain drain and brain gains, etc.

Empirical research in this field has become the starting point for a complete reassessment of migrations theories. On this occasion, economic historians have contributed to a serious examination of the relationships between migrations and economic growth. In the same time, theories of migrations have had to cope with the complexity of the migration phenomena, which cannot be encapsulated within a single argument and which call for different welfare effects and policy recommendations.

So far, the literature on migrations offers no synthetic critical work on the in and outs of the transformations of migration theories. Œconomia plans to publish a section or a special issue with contributions that would help highlighting the transformations of the field of economics of migrations and to put in a wider perspective current theories and debates with older ones. The main questions to be tackled are:

What have been the main debates in economics on migration theories since, say, Ravenstein’s seminal work “The Laws of migrations” in 1885?

What has been the contribution of economic history in the challenging of traditional economic theories and historical paradigms on the extent, causes and consequences of migrations on economic growth and development?

What methodological issues have been tackled in the development of the new theories of migrations and to what extent those theories are based on a single methodological basis?

What has been the influence of normative economics (economic ethics, theories of economic justice, theory of capabilities) on recent developments of the theory of migrations and the appraisal of migration policies?

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