Targeted foreign aid and international migration: Is development-promotion an effective immigration policy?

Jonas Gamso, Farhod Yuldashev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Faced with the failure of traditional immigration controls, policymakers in the United States and Western Europe increasingly look to foreign aid to reduce migrant inflows. Some analysts expect assistance to improve living standards in source countries, thereby deterring residents from moving abroad. While this idea makes intuitive sense, research on aid and migration shows mixed results: some scholarly work supports aid-based migration policies, but other analyses suggest that aid actually enables migration by providing individuals with resources that facilitate movement across borders. We suggest that this tension in the literature reflects a failure to distinguish between different types of foreign aid. Drawing on recent work demonstrating the heterogeneous effects of various aid projects, we posit that governance aid should deter emigration by enhancing government capacity and alleviating political push factors; in contrast, economic and social aid should enable migration by increasing individuals' means and capabilities to move. We test our hypotheses on a panel of 101 developing countries spanning twentyfive years (1985-2010). We find that governance aid does reduce emigration rates from developing countries, while other types of aid appear not to affect migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-820
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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