From individual motivations to social determinants: towards a sociology of migrants’ remittances

Hasan Mahmud*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Migrants may send remittances for a variety of reasons. Studies adopting the perspective of the new economics of labour migration (NEML) identify migrants’ altruism or self-interest as the motivation for their remittances. This paper first recognises the limits of the NELM perspective due to its utilitarian conception of migrants’ altruism and inability to distinguish between altruism and self-interest. The discussion also reveals a preponderance of quantitative studies examining remittance utilisation in the origin communities in the absence of the migrants who are sending the funds. These studies must necessarily indirectly deduce migrants’ motivation to send remittances, leading to post hoc and inconsistent interpretations. In a review of the existing literature, this paper identifies alternative conceptualisations of migrants’ agency and structures embedding their remittances as well as emergent properties of both their agency and those structures. Lastly, it outlines a heuristic typology to empirically study migrants’ remittances following Durkheim's approach to suicide, demonstrating the usefulness of this typology by citing examples from the literature as well as reflecting the author's dissertation research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-188
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Social Science Journal
Issue number237-238
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Durkheim
  • Structure and Agency
  • altruism or self-interest
  • migrants’ remittances
  • social determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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