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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jan 2;116(1):116-122. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1722334116. Epub 2018 Dec 24.

Estimation of emigration, return migration, and transit migration between all pairs of countries.

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Department of Statistics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195;
Computing and Analytics, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Seattle, WA 98109.
Department of Sociology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.


We propose a method for estimating migration flows between all pairs of countries that allows for decomposition of migration into emigration, return, and transit components. Current state-of-the-art estimates of bilateral migration flows rely on the assumption that the number of global migrants is as small as possible. We relax this assumption, producing complete estimates of all between-country migration flows with genuine estimates of total global migration. We find that the total number of individuals migrating internationally has oscillated between 1.13 and 1.29% of the global population per 5-year period since 1990. Return migration and transit migration are big parts of total migration; roughly one of four migration events is a return to an individual's country of birth. In the most recent time period, we estimate particularly large return migration flows from the United States to Central and South America and from the Persian Gulf to south Asia.


bilateral migration flows; international migration; pseudo-Bayes estimation

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