An 'untied' research agenda for family migration; loosening the 'shackles' of the past

Darren Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper focuses on recent methodological and theoretical developments associated with studies of long-distance family migration. The starting point for the discussion is that previous quantitative-based studies have over-privileged economic-related outcomes, and masked the underlying social and cultural decision-making processes of family migrants. Emphasising the perceived merits of qualitative frameworks to tease out the 'non-economic' dimensions of family migration, the paper identifies two issues of concern. First, some current under-researched themes of family migration are illuminated, and an unfolding research agenda for qualitative studies of family migration is outlined. It is contended that this provides a useful entrée to future research activities. Second, and with this in mind, the paper stresses the need for more sophisticated analyses of the human agency of family migrants. Therefore, and building upon Halfacree's thesis of the intentional/unintentional agency of family migrants, an adaptation of Giddens' stratification model of action is presented. It is argued that this will allow a more structurationist reading of family migration decision-making processes, and a fuller understanding of non-economic processes and outcomes. Finally, the paper stresses the complementarity between qualitative and quantitative methods, and calls for the utilisation of mixed-method research designs for studies of family migration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-282
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • Long-Distance Family Migration
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Biographical Approach
  • Agency


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