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Using Household Surveys to Measure International Migration and Remittances in Developing Countries: Examples and Methodological Issues. Richard E. Bilsborrow University of North Carolina

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Using Household Surveys to Measure International Migration and Remittances in Developing Countries: Examples and Methodological Issues

Richard E. Bilsborrow

University of North Carolina

Presented at Expert Group Meeting on Measuring Migration, Remittances, and Development Using Household Surveys: An Assessment of Efforts in Developing Countries, US Census Bureau,

January 14-15, 2008.

importance of international migration in the world demographically
Importance of international migration in the world, demographically
  • 191 million persons living in a country other than that of their birth in 2005, 3% of world population
  • Compares with 75 million, 2.9% in 1960
  • But much higher, 9.5%, in more developed countries (MDCs) vs. 1.4% in less developed (LDCs)

Above is lifetime data: flow data show how rare it is

  • UN data indicate annual in-migration rate during 2000-2005 of 0.22% in MDCs and -0.05% in LDCs
recent migration has increased but is still rare compared to the sending or receiving country
Recent migration hasincreased but is still rare compared to the sending or receiving country
  • The only countries in the world with over 1 million population in 2005 which had a net annual international migration rate over 1% in 2000-2005 were:
  • Eritrea, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates—positive
  • Liberia, Tajikistan, Georgia, and Oman—negative
  • All values 1-1.9% except UAE 5.0%
  • Only country with over 6.5 million pop is Afghanistan
international migration as a rare phenomenon continued
International migration as a rare phenomenon (continued)
  • Developed countries with highest inflows were Spain and Ireland at 0.97 and 0.98%
  • Others of interest include Canada 0.7, Australia 0.5, USA 0.4, Germany 0.3, UK 0.2, Netherlands 0.2, France 0.1
  • Albania -0.6, Ukraine -0.3, Armenia -0.7
  • Iran -0.4; Morocco, Sudan -0.3; Philippines, Pakistan -0.2; Egypt -0.1
  • Guatemala -0.5; Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua -0.4, Dom. Rep. -0.3; Peru -0.2
  • Surprisingly few others in world (over 5 million population) over -0.1 (China, India -0.03)
defining and measuring migrants
Defining and Measuring Migrants
  • Based on place (country) of birth = foreign born
  • Based on country of previous residence being different from current, and time of arrival (yields fixed-period migration, almost flow statistic)
  • Based on citizenship
  • Duration of residence (or intended residence) in current country and previous country (6, 12 mo. criteria)
  • Sources: Census, current population register, border/admission statistics, registers of foreigners/foreign workers, naturalization stats.
purpose of data collection is it to
Purpose of data collection: is it to
  • Measure/count international migrants—immigrants, emigrants, return migrants
  • Over some fixed recent time period (cut-off of 1, 2, 5, 10….years)
  • Characterize migrants: age, sex, education, work experience, assets….
  • Collect data on remittances sent/received
  • Study determinants of migration and/or consequences of migration
two survey approaches
Two survey approaches
  • Adapt existing survey—which has major purpose (s) established, sample size and design, questionnaire content, stakeholders, periodicity
  • Advantages: main cost already covered, inexpensive to add a few questions
  • Disadvantages: cannot add many questions, sample of migrants may be inadequate


  • Design and implement new specialized survey
focus is on developing countries of emigration
Focus is on developing countries of emigration
  • Data on individuals who have left (emigrated) from households can be obtained from household members remaining behind (proxy respondents)
  • Limitations in data that can be obtained
  • Data on whole households that emigrated usually only obtainable in country of destination, indicating major limitation of survey carried out only in origin country
types of existing surveys to think of adapting
Types of existing surveys to think of adapting
  • Labour force surveys
  • Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)
  • Living Standard Measurement Surveys (LSMS)
  • Other (e.g., Multi-purpose) surveys
  • Inherent limitations of border statistics, passenger statistics, admission statistics, so not discussed further
adapting existing surveys to collect more better data on international migrants
Adapting existing surveys to collect more/better data on International Migrants
  • Requirements of surveys: large sample size and/or high prevalence of migrants in country
  • Issue of “rare elements”, especially if focus is on recent migrants vs. lifetime migrants
  • Example, survey of 10,000 households in country with 10% foreign born, 2% recent, yields only 500 adult migrants
  • Most useful are surveys which already have some relevant information, e.g., previous place of residence or birth, employment status, etc.
  • The longer the questionnaire already in use, the more limited new questions can be in general
labour force surveys the best prospects
Labour force surveys—the best prospects
  • Most universal across countries, regular
  • Administered by National Statistics Office
  • Relatively large sample sizes
  • National coverage and representation
  • Already collect some key data on international migrants—age, sex, education, employment,etc.
  • Many ask place of birth, thus identifying foreign born, some also ask previous place of residence x years ago or when came to country
labour force surveys cont
Labour force surveys (cont.)
  • Some developing countries already include modules on international migration
  • Examples include Pakistan, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Poland, UK, Armenia, Philippines, Egypt, Mexico, on immigrants and/or emigrants
  • Most ask motives for migration, date of departure/arrival, remittances received
  • Only a few ask about household composition and characteristics, migrant’s work, education, etc., before departure (or arrival)
example of thailand 2006 lfs
Example of Thailand 2006 LFS
  • Carried out since 1963, quarterly since 2001, 80,000 households/quarter, 26.7K monthly
  • Covers all 76 provinces as PSUs, has 5,796 Secondary Sample Units, 3/5 sample is urban though population is only 30% urban so must weight data
  • Uses normal LF questionnaire, including wages (but no housing or assets data), in 4th quarter asks 19 questions on immigration, including duration of residence, whether registered, plans to remain or not, if worked in month before coming to T, whether sends $, amount, use.
experimental module on im used in 4 th quarter 2006 ilo wb
Experimental module on IM used in 4th quarter, 2006 (ILO/WB)
  • 22 questions, for every member, referring to previous 12 mos.
  • Ask if x received any $/goods from elsewhere, times, amount, relationship to head, usage, etc.
  • Asks if x is citizen of T, if not, where
  • When 1st came to T, last time, from where
  • Asks education, occupation, industry, etc., at time of arrival (can compare with current)
2006 thai module cont
2006 Thai module (cont.)
  • Missing items-- Thai language ability on arrival and now, marital status then and now, with whom came
  • Only 0.6% of pop constituted by immigrants, mostly from 3 neighboring countries, estimated less than 500 persons (150 hhs?) born abroad
  • Tabulations in report based on these numbers multiplied by national inflation factor of 823, obscuring real numbers; this is reason for presenting raw numbers in reports
  • No data on emigration, nor remittances received
ecuador survey of employment underemployment and unemployment
Ecuador, Survey of Employment, Underemployment and Unemployment
  • 2005 national sample, 19,596 “dwellings”
  • Module with 33 questions per emigrant– when left, why, work status/occupation, marital status, etc.
  • Some on current status—country of residence, age, education, work
  • Remittances previous mo., 12 mos., no. times, use including investing, sector
  • Independently, every person in household 18+ is asked if received remittances ever, when, whether invested
  • Gets current education but not at time of emigration, and marital status at emigration but not current
  • Migration intentions asked only in hhs with emigrants
survey on overseas filipinos
Survey on Overseas Filipinos
  • Conducted annually by NSO since 1987, every October, sample currently 41,000 households
  • Asks about those who left to work or travel overseas in past 5 years, characteristics now, and remittances received and by what means
  • Results on web and in Yang et al. find 14% rise in number working abroad in 2006 vs. 2005, slightly more women than men, 17% rise in remittances, 95% in cash, 79% sent thru banks
national survey of occupation and labour 2007 inegi
National Survey of Occupation and Labour, 2007 (INEGI)
  • 120,260 “dwellings” representative of states….
  • Measures immigrants from questions on place of birth, previous residence, why came
  • Measures emigrants by asking if any former member has left to live elsewhere, and why
  • In 4th quarter of 2002, Module on Migration included with more questions, sample 80,000, asks residence 5 years ago, country/state of current residence, why/when left, means of transport, remittances sent
  • Questions also for return migrants, including if went to USA to work, whether with legal docs
dhs surveys
DHS surveys
  • Advantages—moderate sample sizes, 10-30 K households
  • Already have detailed demog. data including on children: ask residence
  • Also, accustomed to orphanhood questions, so ask residence of siblings, etc
  • Examples of Ecuador, Colombia
ecuador dhs 2004
Ecuador DHS, 2004
  • Explosion of emigration since 1995
  • ENDEMAIN IV covered 28,908 households (CEPAR), with module on emigration
  • Asks if anyone left in previous 5 years, when, characteristics of person when left, work in year before leaving, why left, current residence, remittances sent in past 12 months, frequency, amount, use
  • Shows about 7% of households (over 1500) have an emigrant since 1999, 62% of which received remittances in past 12 months
  • Could have asked about residence of absent children, migration intentions
lsms surveys
LSMS surveys
  • Advantage: Rich economic data sets, so can use to better measure economic situation of migrants and non-migrants
  • Flexibility: Countries can add modules of interest
  • Disadvantages: Small sample size, long questionnaires already so hard to add to
  • Examples of Ghana, Peru, Ecuador, Armenia, Albania
key issue in surveys of migration use of appropriate comparison groups
Key issue in surveys of migration: use of appropriate comparison groups
  • To study either the D or C of migration, need data for both migrants and non-migrants (M & N)
  • For IM, to study the D, need data for both the M and the rest of the at-risk pop of N in the country of O, which serves as the appropriate comparison group
  • But for whole hhs migrating, need data from hhs in D that migrated from O plus hhs in O that did not migrate
  • Furthermore, need detailed data on the situation prior to the migration, of the individual and hh context. For individual M, get data from proxy respondent. For indiv N, from person.
  • Time reference should be just before mig for migrants, and at the mean time of migration for N, in neither case, at the time of the survey!
in sum to study migration s determinants
In sum, to study migration’s determinants
  • In country of origin: survey households with and without recent emigrants
  • In country of destination: survey recent immigrants originating in the country of origin
  • Compare: migrants at time of departure from origin with non-migrants at origin at the average time of departure of migrants
sampling migrants in specialized surveys of international migration
Sampling Migrants in specialized surveys of international migration
  • Absolute need for probability sampling
  • Define survey purpose and hence appropriate comparison groups at outset (and countries!)
  • Based on budget, define survey domain and target sample size and distribution
  • Recognize that migrants are rare elements
  • Find sampling frame—for migrants and non-migrants
  • Calculate proportions of population which are migrants of interest in PSUs, form strata
sampling rare elements disproportionate sampling from strata two phase sampling
Sampling rare elements: disproportionate sampling from strata, two-phase sampling
  • Example of country of Origin, select migrants and non-migrants
  • Sample Primary Sampling Units such as provinces using disproportionate sampling, oversampling from strata with high proportions of international migrants
  • Continue in subsequent stages, oversampling
  • In final sample Ultimate Area Units (UAUs), conduct screening operation, use 2-phase sampling, first listing occupied households to identify those with migrants
  • Oversample those with migrants, but also select households without; conduct interviews
examples of specialized surveys of international migration
Examples of specialized surveys of international migration
  • NIDI
  • Argentina
  • IOM Surveys in Guatemala
  • Others—Morocco, Maghreb (2007), Malaysia, Colombians in Ecuador
nidi 7 country push pulls project on causes of migration to eu 1997 98
NiDi 7-country Push-Pulls Project on Causes of Migration to EU, 1997-98
  • 5 countries of O, Italy and Spain of D
  • Common survey purpose, sampling methodology, questionnaires; completed sample sizes 1100-2000
  • Defined migrant households in O as those with member who left to live abroad without returning in previous 10 years
  • In D defined as having someone come from one of two specific countries of O
  • Rare elements, so used stratification, etc.
  • Used appropriate comparison groups
nidi eurostat survey project 1997 1998
NIDI-Eurostat Survey Project, 1997-1998
  • Five countries of origin: Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal and Ghana
  • Two destinations: Italy and Spain
  • Common methodology: samples, questionnaires
  • Sample sizes range from 1100-2000
  • Migrant: person leaving/arriving in past 10 years
nidi eurostat survey project 1997 199829
NIDI-Eurostat Survey Project, 1997-1998
  • Migrants at destination: Those originating from either of two countries of origin
  • For immigrants from Egypt and Ghana in Italy, appropriate comparison groups are available: non-migrants interviewed in Egypt and Ghana
  • For immigrants from Morocco and Senegal in Spain, appropriate comparison groups are available: non-migrants in Morocco and Senegal
complementary survey on international migrants in argentina
Complementary Survey on International Migrants in Argentina
  • Survey in 2002-03 of migrants from 5 neighbouring countries, in main areas of residence of each (2 to 6 for each, total of 18), not national sample
  • Households interviewed if contained someone born in any of the 5 countries, so not focused on recent immig
  • Used 2001 census to create sampling frame, two-stage sample in Buenos Aires region, one-stage elsewhere
  • Sample sizes of 13,296 and 8,222, respectively
  • Asks antecedents to coming, residence history in Arg., whether sent or received $, residence of close relatives, property in origin country now, migration intentions, etc.
example of iom surveys in guatemala 2002 present
Example of IOM Surveys in Guatemala, 2002-present
  • Annual surveys, national sample of 3,000 households, based on 3-stage sample using 2002 census to create sampling frame
  • PSUs are districts (municipios) selected with PPES, ……, UAUs census sectors
  • Listing operation performed on all 55,000 dwellings in sample UAUs, then hhs with migrants “selected with equal probability” in country to interview
  • Wealth of data obtained, many pamphlets published, with results, including on remittances, use for investment, effects on poverty of receiving households
examples of questionnaire modules in country of emigration
Examples of questionnaire modules in country of emigration
  • To identify emigrants
  • On work activity of emigrant prior to emigration
  • On reasons for emigration
  • On work activity in country of destination
  • On migration intentions
  • On remittances
  • On return migrants