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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Migration: The Controversies and the Evidence
Riccardo Faini, Jaime de Melo, and Klaus Zimmerman

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999
334pp, Index. Hb.; 45.00; ISBN 0-521-66233-8



The title of this book is somewhat misleading since it is not so much an exploration of the controversies surrounding migration as it as an analysis of the political economy of migration. Its main concern is with the links between trade flows and foreign direct investment (FDI) and labour mobility. This is not surprising since it is noted in the foreword that the volume is the outcome of a conference on 'Trade and Factor Mobility': one must assume that the editors thought 'Migration: The Controversies and Evidence' a sexier, if less accurate, title.

Part One offers insights from economic theory, Part Two attempts to quantify the links between trade and migration, and Part Three looks at historical and contemporary evidence of links between trade liberalisation and migration. Both North-North (including East-West) and South-North migration flows are considered, but interestingly not South-South flows: one wonders why the latter were omitted since consideration of South-South flows would presumably have provided a more rounded picture of economic migration at a global level. Moreover, a consideration of South-South cases might also have provided some interesting material for the consideration of the role of cultural preferences in migration and in immigration policy, both of which are examined in chapter 4.

The entire volume is liberally illustrated with complex graphs and models based on mathematical formulae but unfortunately these are likely to be incomprehensible to anyone lacking a strong background in economics (such as myself!). There is very little in the book of relevance to ethnic conflict, although some of the models and arguments employed could perhaps be adapted by a competent economist for use as tools for the analysis of ethnic conflict as one factor promoting out-migration and/or of trade liberalisation and aid flows as a means of preventing ethnic conflict. To be fair to the authors, the volume was clearly intended to contribute to economic theory, and not to conflict research, but it does suggest a possible area for collaborative research between economists and other social scientists. The authors conclude that 'both the theoretical and empirical contributions in this volume suggest that trade liberalisation will not always alleviate the incentives for factor mobility' (p.17): this is surely because there are often non-economic incentives to migration.


Dr Helen Leigh-Phippard, International Relations,



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