Thursday, April 11, 2013

Forecasting Migration

Andres Marroquin points to this chart showing long-term trends of net migration by continent. [By the way, the original report has many interesting charts that give a clear summary of global demographic trends]

When we hear the words “long-term migration” in the same sentence, it is impossible not to remember one prominent Achilles' heel in demographic studies: the inability to forecast long-term migration. Here is Willekens' opinion on this topic.

Why is it not possible to do long-term [migration] forecasts?
The data from statistical offices are not suitable for long-term migration forecasts. The reason is that these data document the outcome of migration flows – not the reasons behind them. Predictions on the basis of past behaviour are reliable when the system is stable, i.e. when conditions do not change and people respond to these conditions in the same way as people in the past. But conditions change, for instance when regulatory measures are taken to prevent migration flows, or events occur, like political changes in the country or natural disasters. (Frans Willekens)

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