Volume 45 - Article 4 | Pages 87–140  

Global bilateral migration projections accounting for diasporas, transit and return flows, and poverty constraints

By Albano Rikani, Jacob Schewe


Background: Anticipating changes in international migration patterns is useful for demographic studies and for designing policies that support the well-being of those involved. Existing forecasting methods do not account for a number of stylized facts that emerge from large-scale migration observations and theories: existing migrant communities – diasporas – act to lower migration costs and thereby provide a mechanism of self-amplification; return migration and transit migration are important components of global migration flows; and poverty constrains emigration.

Objective: Here we present hindcasts and future projections of international migration that explicitly account for these nonlinear features.

Methods: We develop a dynamic model that simulates migration flows by origin, destination, and place of birth. We calibrate the model using recently constructed global datasets of bilateral migration.

Results: We show that the model reproduces past patterns and trends well based only on initial migrant stocks and changes in national incomes. We then project migration flows under future scenarios of global socioeconomic development.

Conclusions: Different assumptions about income levels and between-country inequality lead to markedly different migration trajectories, with migration flows either converging towards net zero if incomes in presently poor countries catch up with the rest of the world; or remaining high or even rising throughout the 21st century if economic development is slower and more unequal. Importantly, diasporas induce significant inertia and sizable return migration flows.

Contribution: Our simulation model provides a versatile tool for assessing the impacts of different socioeconomic futures on international migration, accounting for important nonlinearities in migration drivers and flows.

Author's Affiliation

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Reducing uncertainty in Delphi surveys: A case study on immigration to the EU
Volume 49 - Article 36    | Keywords: European Union, immigration, international migration, migration flows

Advanced or postponed motherhood? Migrants’ and natives’ gap between ideal and actual age at first birth in Spain
Volume 49 - Article 22    | Keywords: actual age at first birth, age at arrival, fertility, ideal age at first birth, international migration, motherhood, Spain

On the contribution of foreign-born populations to overall population change in Europe: Methodological insights and contemporary evidence for 31 European countries
Volume 46 - Article 7    | Keywords: age structure, Europe, international migration, population change, standardization

Now-casting Romanian migration into the United Kingdom by using Google Search engine data
Volume 45 - Article 40    | Keywords: Bayesian analysis, Google, international migration, time series, trends

Fertility patterns of migrants from low-fertility countries in Norway
Volume 42 - Article 31    | Keywords: adaptation, high-fertility, international migration, low-fertility