Connecting the Dots: Using Social Network Analysis to Untangle the Factors Driving International Migration

Cassie McMillan , Pennsylvania State University

Numerous case studies have analyzed the factors that cause people to move between specific countries or within certain regions of the world. However, empirical research has yet to consider whether theories of international migration can be generalized to a global scale. While making generalizations about the global system of international migration raises unique methodological challenges, I argue that these can be alleviated through adopting a social network perspective. In the current project, I model the patterns of international migration as a social network where actors are individual countries who are tied together by flows of migrants. Then, I apply methods from statistical network analysis to simultaneously test five theories of international migration. While I find modest support for theories of neoclassical economics and the new economics of labor, I uncover convincing evidence that social capital theory can be generalized to explain patterns of international migration of a global scale.

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 Presented in Session 189. Flash Session: New and Pressing Immigration Issues