Impact of the Economic Crisis in International Migration
In 2010, 216 million people lived outside their home countries, and most migration patterns were comprised of people moving from relatively poorer to richer countries, or the global South to the global North, according to the World Bank. In recent years, Mexico-United States has been the largest migration corridor in the world, with Russia-Ukraine and Bangladesh-India the next largest. Worldwide flows of money from immigrants back to their home countries in 2010 were estimated to have exceeded $440 billion, $325 billion of which went to the developing world.
The precise causes and effects of inter-country migration have long been matters of debate, and researchers have recently begun to publish research about how this phenomenon has been affected by the global economic crisis of 2008. A 2011 study from UCLA, “The Impact of the Economic Crisis in International Migration: A Review,” explores the effects of the economic crisis on international migration in four areas: the relationship between migration and the economy of both sending and receiving countries; the underlying causes of migration; how changes in migration affect the economy of the receiving country and the status of migrants; and how economic changes affect the migration policies of governments. The study, published in Work, Employment and Society, reviews existing literature and analyzes supplementary data.
The study’s findings include:
- During the global recession, migration flows to wealthier countries “dipped sharply,” the opposite of what some theories would predict. “Return migration to sending countries, however, appears to have only increased markedly where back-and-forth movement is relatively easy, as in the [European Union].”
- No strong evidence was found that migrants as a whole were further marginalized by the recession, with marginalization measured by the rate of unemployment of migrant workers. However, this “differs by sending country: In the U.K. and the USA, migrants from poorer countries with darker-skinned populations have been punished far more by unemployment. Moreover, migrants may retain jobs during the downturn by accepting worse wages or working conditions.”
- Flows of money from immigrants to their home countries did not decrease as sharply as was predicted after the economic crisis, falling 5.5% in 2009. (The World Bank notes that remittances rose again by 6% in 2010.)
- While the reaction of receiving countries has varied, in general “destination countries have … imposed added restrictions on migration” after the crisis. The author cites Arizona’s recent anti-immigration laws and Italy’s “criminalization of unauthorized immigration” as two examples of such new immigration policy restrictions.
- The recession data suggest there is no straightforward correlation between migration rates and the relative incomes of sending and receiving countries. In general, the rate of total inter-country migration grew as the income gap between sending and receiving countries increased. But an analysis of 50 large migration corridors shows that the number of migrants sometimes shrinks in receiving countries that are growing fast.
The author concludes that “economic incentives do matter, but factors other than income differences modulate migration flows in the short run. Principal among them are differing regulatory regimes, themselves undergoing change.”
Tags: financial crisis, development
Read the issue-related Foreign Policy article titled "Big Senders."
- What key insights from the article and study should reporters be aware of as they cover issues of immigration and global migration, and their intersection with economics?
Read the study titled “The Impact of the Economic Crisis in International Migration: A Review.”
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?