Suessmilch Lecture

Assessing the Effect and Effectiveness of Migration Policy

Mathias Czaika
Hybrid Presentation, May 03, 2023

As part of the Suessmilch Lecture series, Mathias Czaika from the Danube University Krems, Austria, spoke about assessing the effect and effectiveness of migration policy.


In recent years and decades, there have been some marked differences in immigration patterns from so-called third countries to Europe. The share of immigrants from non-EU countries in all foreign citizens has risen continuously in recent decades. However, the composition of EU immigration in terms of its origin or underlying migration causes or forms has varied, sometimes significantly, across EU member states (Czaika et al. 2021). Why?

While national migration policies are assumed to play at least some role, the extent and manner in which these migration patterns result from a combination of migration-driving factors and migration policies is both conceptually and empirically controversial. The interrelationships between migration-driving factors and policy interventions, and their combined effects on migration patterns, are complex and, in many cases, arguably "equifinal." In other words, similar migration patterns, for example in terms of the composition and dynamics of migration flows, may result from different causal configurations and interactions between migration policies and other migration drivers.

Empirical evidence on the fundamental effectiveness of migration policies appears rather mixed (Czaika and de Haas 2013). The theoretical foundations for explaining the role of states and state policies in influencing the forms, compositions, dynamics, and destinations of European immigration are also rather weak. Analyses of "migration policy" are often based on a rather narrow or often undefined understanding of the term. Complex interaction and feedback mechanisms between numerous policy instruments-particularly those that go beyond "classic migration policy"-have been analyzed anecdotally but not systematically (de Haas et al. 2019). However, recognizing the importance of complex policy configurations and interactions that often trigger both feedback and compound effects, which are moreover often influenced in their impact by socioeconomic and political frameworks, is crucial for a robust assessment of both the opportunities and limitations of migration policy interventions.

About the Speaker

© Mathias Czaika

Mathias Czaika is University Professor of Migration and Integration and Head of the Department of Migration and Globalization at Danube University Krems, Austria. In this role, he leads a larger team of migration researchers and is also the coordinator of the PhD program in Migration Studies. Mathias Czaika holds a degree in economics from the University of Konstanz and a PhD in political economy from the University of Freiburg, Germany. After completing his PhD in 2008, he worked as an economic policy analyst and consultant for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Between 2010 and 2017, he was a Senior Researcher and Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, UK. In 2016, he became Director of the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford. Mathias Czaika's main research interests include areas as diverse as international migration processes and decision-making in the context of social transformations, globalization, development, poverty and inequality, and migration policy design and impact evaluation.

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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.