Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Migration as a Capability: Discussing Sen’s Capability Approach in the Context of International Migration

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Abstract:  Migration is a form of spatial and social transplant from one local and national context to another. Migration trajectories often expose the underlying intersections of social relations and social hierarchies that underpin cultural and social national environments. Migrants who encounter those complex structural inequalities must learn to negotiate classed, gendered and racialised social relations and seek the most suitable social positions within new systems. This article builds on Amartya Sen’s capability approach to conceptualise migrants’ embeddedness in the framework of social inequalities and explores the relationship between individual choices, resources and entitlements. It points towards patterns of advantage and disadvantage that frame migrants’ opportunities and draws tacit analytical, theoretical and methodological links that have the innovative potential for the study of migration. Building on the parallels between studies in the fields of social inequalities and migration, this article argues that Sen’s analytical and conceptual approach provides innovative insights into migration experiences, and Sen’s unique reasoning opens up new avenues for the discussion of migrants’ social justice.

Keywords:  capabilities; choice; entitlement; inequalities; migration; social justice



© Marta Eichsteller. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.