International migration and development. The changing impact of migration on redistributing global population


This research note explores the impact of international migration on global population distribution since the 1990s. The impact of migration on population distribution is a function of both the intensity as well as the effectiveness of migration, that is the imbalance between flows and counter-flows. The presence of reciprocal flows is a well-recognized feature of international migration systems; however, this dimension has been difficult to capture at the global level due to a lack of origin-destination flow data. In this research note, we apply metrics developed for the analysis of internal migration to global migration flows to explore the impact of international migration on global population distribution over time, and across levels of human development. In the five years to 2020, international migration redistributed 0.39 percent of the world’s population (28 million people) despite 1.38 percent (101 million) changing country of residence. This has declined from 0.56 percent of the global population in 1990–1995. This decline in impact is underpinned by a reduction in migration effectiveness, that is, the migration system is becoming more balanced over time. The impact of migration was greatest for flows between countries at Very High levels of human development, reflecting high migration intensity and exchanges between countries at Low and Very High levels of human development, reflecting significant asymmetry of flows. Our results suggest systematic shifts in both the level and pattern of flows across the development ladder, with flows becoming more intense and balanced with higher levels of human development.

International Migration Review
Francisco Rowe
Francisco Rowe
Professor of Population Data Science

My research interests include human mobility and migration; economic geography and spatial inequality; geographic data science.