Edited by Robert E.B. Lucas
Chapter 2: Informing migration policies: a data primer
While establishing his theory of human migration, which forms the basis of much of modern research on migration, Ernst Georg Ravenstein (1885, 1889) relied on various data sources from over 20 countries in Europe and North America to back up his assertions with facts. One of his main conclusions was the importance of high-quality primary data, mainly from national sources, for demographic and geographic research. Since then, researchers in numerous fields such as demography, economics, sociology and political science have established various data collection methodologies and principles via censuses, administrative registers, nationally representative or special-purpose surveys to answer a wide range of academic and policy questions. On one hand, the progress has been quite impressive in terms of the variety and quality of data sources available. On the other hand, some of the basic challenges from the nineteenth century still haunt us with all their vigor. This chapter has two purposes. First, it answers some fundamental questions on who international migrants are and how their numbers as well as various demographic, personal and human capital characteristics are captured via different data sources. The critical issues are the construction of proper sampling frames in censuses, registers, surveys and the design of questionnaires in the relevant surveys.
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