Dynamics in the spatial structure of international migration flows between 195 countries, 1960-2010

Nikola Sander, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

In the twenty-first century, the importance of international migration in shaping population distribution patterns, economic development and ethnic diversity will further increase. Despite its profound impacts, there is a lack of theoretical development tailored to the complexity of international migration, reflecting the dearth of adequate data. This paper aims to address this deficiency by determining the dynamics of the spatial structure of international migration and shifts in spatial patterns over the 50-year period, 1960 - 2010. Data are drawn from the WICiMig Database, a unique new data set developed at the Wittgenstein Centre, that holds time-series estimates of five-year interval migration transitions between 195 countries for the period 1960-65 to 2005–10. The flow data were estimated by developing mathematical demographic techniques that link place of birth population stocks with migration flows. The basis for these estimates is the recently released global bilateral foreign-born stock data from the World Bank. The analysis presented here is based on earlier work by Bell et al. (2002) and Rees et al. (2000), who argue that internal migration can be analysed along four dimensions: intensity, connectivity, impact and distance. We apply a set of indicators originally developed for the study of internal migration to international migration flow estimates to obtain a comprehensive picture of the spatial structure of flows between 195 countries. The results improve understanding of past global patterns of international migration flows and changes over time, with respect to the intensity, impact, connectivity and distance of migration. The findings facilitate the testing of contemporary theory, such as world systems theory, network theory and the theory of cumulative causation.

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Presented in Poster Session 1