This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Family Unification is the Norm in Migration Patterns

The classic model of migration is that young unmarried people (historically men, but now also women) migrate to another country to find work. They may then return back to the country of origin, or stay in the country of destination and create a family with people already living in the country of origin. In today's world, the model of a single person migrating is more associated with guest-worker programs (such as exist especially in the oil-rich Gulf states) than it is with legal migration to countries like the U.S., Canada or the U.K. This point is made very clearly by a briefing paper just published by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC. Look at the table below from their report:

I have often commented on the difference in immigration polices between Canada and the U.S., in which the former have a system much more oriented toward admitting people based on their potential economic contribution to Canada than on their family affiliation. But the authors of this report have dug deeply into the data to discover that in Canada and the U.K., for example, many people are admitted not just for economic reasons, but also because of their family connections to other immigrants. This is not a bad thing, of course. Rather, it is a much more nuanced system than exists, in particular, in the United States, where family admissions clearly predominate legal migrant admissions.

My biggest takeaway from this report is the complexity of immigration issues. The implicit policy position in low-fertility rich countries is that immigrants are needed as workers to replace the babies not otherwise being born. Otherwise, the aging population will undermine the economy because of its demand on resources relative to its economic productivity. However, it is not all clear that such economic issues are actually driving immigration policy and practices.

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