Theorising transnational migration. The status paradox of migration (completed)

Boris Nieswand

Although transnational migration studies have well documented migrants’ cross-border activities, there are few empirically grounded efforts to theorise these developments within the framework of integration and status theory. The book centers around the well-grounded theorem of the status paradox of migration and how it is linked to migrants’ multiple incorporation within and across national borders. The status paradox describes a problem which is characteristic for a larger class of labour migrants from the global south, a class that is neither highly qualified according to the standards of the receiving country nor unqualified according to the standards of the migrants’ countries of origin. These migrants often lose social status, which they were able to claim in their countries of origin with reference to their education and/or their professional experiences, because their qualifications are devalued on the labour markets of the destination countries of migration and they are therefore forced to accept unskilled low-wage jobs. At the same time, global economic inequalities and facilities for the transfer of resources provide the same group of migrants with opportunities to establish a middle-class status in their countries of origin and to overtake parts of the ‘local’ middle classes there. In this sense, migrants gain status in the sending countries by simultaneously losing it in the receiving countries of migration. This transnational dynamic of status attainment, which, as will be shown, accompanies specifically national forms of status inconsistency, is called the status paradox of migration.

The selected empirical case of Ghanaian migrants is well-suited for examining these broader theoretical questions. Ghanaians are one of the largest groups of Sub-Saharan Africans in Europe and extended their geographical scope of labour migration earlier than many comparable African groups. Due to differences in general wealth levels between West Africa and Western Europe and the fact that forms of multiple socio-economic incorporation are well-developed among Ghanaian migrants, Ghana is an ideal typical case to explore the conditions and consequences of the status paradox of migration.
The book has been published in the ‘Research in Transnationalism’ series by Routledge.

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