The Impact Factor of migration journals: An update

Carlos Vargas-Silva

Last year I wrote a blog discussing the Impact Factor of migration journals. Since then I have received multiple requests for an update. This blog provides such an update.

The comparison

The category used for the comparison is ‘Demography’. There are three journals in this category with the word ‘migration’ in the title: International Migration (IM), International Migration Review (IMR) and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS). As I explained in my previous blog, Migration Studies (MS) is also included in the comparison as Oxford University Press has been providing an Impact Factor for this journal since 2014. This Impact Factor is estimated using a similar methodology and MS is currently awaiting its first official Social Science Citation Index listing (in process).

As shown in Figure 1, 2015 was a good year for migration journals. All four journals had a higher Impact Factor compared to 2014. This signals an overall increase in the influence of migration research. The Impact Factors of IMR and JEMS experienced substantial increases and both journals are now above the 1.5 threshold. The increase for IM was more modest (0.005).

The Impact Factor of MS remains higher than other journals and is now above the 2.0 threshold. In fact, according to Oxford University Press the Impact Factor of MS is “currently higher than any other migration journal in the world”.

Figure 1: Comparison of migration journals

Does it matter?

The Impact Factor is an imperfect metric, but it is particularly important for migration journals given the multidisciplinary nature of migration research. The disciplinary standing of journals does not rely exclusively on the Impact Factor. For example, the American Economic Review, which is often considered to be the top journal in economics for many procedures (for example, tenure decisions, promotions) comes number 9 in the Economics Impact Factor ranking.

The dynamic is different for migration research. While some of us work in academic units which focus exclusively on migration research, most academics working on migration are based in disciplinary units (for example, departments of anthropology, economics, geography, political science or sociology). This means that they have to convince colleagues, most of whom are not doing any research on migration, that they are publishing in a highly regarded and influential journal. The easiest way to do that is to show that the journal has a high Impact Factor!

For example, Table 1 shows where the four journals mentioned above would rank according to Impact Factor in some key disciplines for migration researchers. An Anthropologist could make the case that the migration journals are equivalent, by Impact Factor standards, to a top-50 journal in the discipline. The argument is harder in other disciplines, particularly economics in which only MS would make the top-50 cut. Again, the Impact Factor is not the only measure of quality and standing of a journal, but a high Impact Factor really helps makes the case for migration journals.

Table 1: Ranking of migration journals across different categories

Note: Demography is the actual category of these journals. Other categories are provided for comparative purposes only.

I will update the information again next year. In the meantime, think carefully about the different possible outlets for your work and good luck with your submissions!

Note: Thanks to Alan Gamlen for helpful suggestions on a previous version of this blog.