Case study

DFID Research: The Numbers Game - Global Migrant Origin Database

Database helps to give a comprehensive picture of global migration.

Migration DRC Global Migrant Origin Database Map
Migration DRC Global Migrant Origin Database Map

In recent years, migration has gained a high profile with countries both in the South and North, and multilateral agencies and organisations, including the United Nations and the World Bank. The interest in migration is often linked to its potential to promote development, as governments and donors acknowledge its role in people’s strategies to improve their livelihoods, and seek to understand how the benefits from migration might be enhanced, and conversely how the costs and risks can be reduced.

One of the main limits to reaching conclusions on how policymakers should address these issues has been the lack of data. Few attempts have been made to collate detailed and comparable bilateral migration data. Data sources and processes by which figures were arrived at have not always been transparent, impeding further research at the global level.

How the database was produced

With the aid of censuses and other data sources, researchers at the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty (Migration DRC) gathered data on place of birth and nationality. Most of the data were collected from the latest round of censuses (2000 to 2001), and all sources were well documented. Attention was also given to critical differences in how different countries defined and classified migrants. This exercise was followed by a series of others by which gaps in the emerging picture were filled by a number of extrapolations based on a country’s propensity to send migrants abroad. This produced a comprehensive picture of global migration.

The Migration DRC also collaborated with the Migration Information Source to produce a map that uses the Global Migrant Origin Database to provide information to the general public in a user friendly format.

Headway has already been made in using the data to improve understanding of global migration trends and its impact on welfare. In its review of Global Economic Prospects 2006, the World Bank described the researchers as having ‘done a remarkable amount of detective work’. Even more indicative of its impact on the migration data field has been the extensive work that researchers have already done to build on and to further analyse the data. The World Bank, for instance, has used this source as a basis for presenting data on remittances (transfers of money by foreign workers to their home countries). The World Bank is also working on the data to analyse it by gender, and the World Bank and UNDP are working together on the age distribution of migrants.

More information

Published 14 December 2007