Where people are migrating around the world, in one incredible graphic

facts Mar 17, 2015

Estimating the true number of migrants that move around the world each  year is a difficult task — some people cross borders illegally, and  different countries’ recording and enforcement standards vary. As a  result, data on international migration is often incomplete. The U.S.  may note an increase in foreign-born people across two time periods, for  example, but other countries have no parallel record of them leaving.

Appeared in The Washington Post | See the graphic in high resolution | See an in-depth look of this data.

To fill this gap, Nikola Sander, Guy Abel and Ramon Bauer of the  Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital used statistical missing data methods to analyze the global flow of migrants. Using data on the changes in  migrant stock over time, they estimate the five-year flows that are  required to account for the differences in the data. The graphic above shows the results for 2005-2010 for the top 50 sending and receiving countries.

Here’s how to read the graphic: Each country is assigned a color. The  arcs across the circle, which represent flows of migrants, have the same  color as their country of origin. For each flow, the authors left a gap  at the destination country, but no gap at the country of origin. The  width of the flow indicates its size, while tick marks indicate gross  migration (in + out of a country) in 100,000 people.

The graphic offers some pretty amazing insights into the global flows  of people. A large yellow band near the top of the graphic shows the  nearly 2 million Mexicans that immigrated to the US between 2005 and  2010. The graphic also shows substantial flows from China, India and the  Philippines into the US. Those who left the US, on the other hand, were  most likely to go to European countries.

The graphic also tracks fascinating flows in other parts of the world.  Countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and  Bangladesh claim outsized portions of the graphic for their populations.  For example, note the huge flow of migrants from India, Pakistan,  Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines into the UAE, Saudi Arabia and  Qatar, which have a high demand for guest workers.

If you like this graphic, it’s worth checking out the interactive version,  which lets you click on a region to see the country-by-country flows,  as well as look at data for different time periods. H/t to Max Roser,  who runs the fascinating blog Our World in Data.

— Ana Swanson March 16 at 2:03 pm

Mohammad Mustakim Ali

I'm a Software Engineer living in London, UK. My passion is to make *very fast* software with great user experience and I have just got little better on this than I was yesterday.