Individual versus family migration. Does this dichotomous classification correspond to the experiences of international migrants?

Tatiana Eremenko, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

The dynamics of family related migration, a major component of international migration today, have yet to be further explored. The evolution of this phenomenon is often summarized by the changes in the volume/proportion of legal admissions for family-related reasons, but this vision has shortcomings. The legal dimension is only one aspect of the migration process and there are other ways in which the family group is implicated in it. The definition of the family migrant and its types – family reunification, family formation, accompanying family members – reproduces the categories used in immigration policies responding to administrative purposes and not research ones. This paper analyses the relevancy of this typology by examining whether the existing legal categories correspond to differences in the migrants’ trajectories and their present day situations: Are the sex and age distributions, migration and family histories, types of family ties linking them to the persons acting as their sponsors in these sub-groups significantly different? Do there exist other family members, not acting as official sponsors, but nevertheless participating in the migration process: parents arranging the marriage leading to the migration of the new spouse, siblings already residing in the destination country and potentially providing help to the newly arrived migrant? This broader definition of the family migrant puts into question the dichotomous vision of individual versus family based move, as there appear to be many ways and degrees in which a migration project can be linked with the family one. We base our analysis on data from the New Migrants survey carried out in France in 2006 (6280 respondents) which has the advantage of providing detailed information on both the legal status of the respondent as well as his/her personal migration and family history and summary information on their closest relatives: spouse, children, parents and siblings.

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Presented in Session 2: Migration decisions