Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

David S Brown

Second Advisor

Joseph Jupille

Third Advisor

Susan Clarke


Family migration accounts for the majority of migrant movement to the developed world. In response, European states change family migration policy provisions in an attempt to balance national interests with their human rights obligation to respect family life. This dissertation explains variation across European family migration polices and discovers politics is the primary policy determinant. The findings suggest public support for immigration control and radical anti-immigrant parties trumps humanitarian, economic, and demographic concerns when it comes to explaining variance in family migration policy. Indicators of political conservativism also describe variation in labor and family migrant policy, in family immigration and immigrant policies, and in the implementation of “integration from abroad” programs. The results have significant political implications on two fronts. First, immigration policies based on humanitarian principles are fragile to national political maneuvering, suggesting that international law has not obtained significant weight over national interests. Second, the importance of the radical right and anti-immigrant public opinion for family migration policy reveals the vulnerability of rights-based immigration policy to anti-democratic interests. In addition to providing robust findings and practical implications for domestic and international politics, this dissertation contributes to the existing literature in an additional four ways: it examines family migration (which has not been widely distinguished as a unique subject of study); it groups existing theories of immigration policy into an evaluative framework of humanitarian, economic, political, and demographic policy motivators; it uses multivariate analysis to examine general trends across cases; and it uses recent data to examine policy provisions in quantitative models.