Migration, both internal and international, affects welfare by allowing households to mitigate risk, improve job opportunities, change access to services and alter social mobility. The review of migration data in LSMS surveys by Lucas (2000) in the Designing Household Survey Questionnaires book indicates that the data collected have been quite restricted and clearly not on par with the importance of the topic. Furthermore, migration flows are extremely heterogeneous phenomena, requiring the development of improved tools to properly capture their diversity.
There are several areas of potential investigation on improved methods to collect and analyze information on migration and remittances which emphasize definitions of migration in different geographic contexts and migration regimes. For example, there is a need to improve survey instruments to measure circular migration and potential returnees, and to gather more complete information on return migrants and immigrants to predominantly out-migration countries. The definition of "household" may have implications for collecting migration data. There is a need to improve the availability of data on migration-relevant infrastructure and institutions. Finally efforts will focus on new methods to estimate remittances and identification of households' uses of these resources.
Improving the measurement and policy relevance of migration information in multi-topic household surveys
This paper discusses how LSMS surveys can be adapted in order to study a range of issues surrounding migration. To date, the LSMS has been under-utilized as a tool to study migration; only a handful of previous LSMS surveys have included detailed migration modules regarding current household members or previous household members who have out-migrated. There are several reasons that migration may have been overlooked in previous surveys. First, migration has only recently increased in prominence, and as a result, it may not have previously seemed to be a high-priority topic for inclusion in a questionnaire. Second, migration is a rare event from a statistical perspective, and the relatively small sample size of most LSMS surveys often makes them unsuitable for the study of migration. Third, as migration is not a random event, there are methodological issues with identifying causal relationships between welfare and migration that may need to be addressed by making additional changes to questionnaire content. However, even if causal relationships cannot be identified, multi-topic household surveys can be used to further the understanding of correlations between migration and policy-relevant variables not well-understood or established prior to the survey.
Measuring Migration using Household Surveys
This study provides some broad guidelines and useful references to researchers and development practitioners planning to collect and analyze migration data. Given that the subject is fast and this not is somewhat limited in scope, the authors focus the discussion on specific aspects of the measurement of migration including the definition of different forms of migration, and some of the main sampling and survey design issues.
Measuring Migration using Household Surveys, Migration Operational Vehicle, Note No. 2
Mexico Field Experiment to Test Migration Recall
This study explores the reliability of retrospective data using two rounds of data from the Mexico National Rural Household Surveys (Encuesta Nacional a Hogares Rurales de Mexico, or ENHRUM). The first round of the survey (ENHRUM I) was carried out in 2003 and, among other things, assembled complete migration and local work histories from 1980 through 2002. In 2008, ENHRUM II re-visited households. Two types of data were gathered in the ENHRUM II to explore the reliability of migration recall data. First, the migration and local work life histories were updated but with a 12-year overlap extending back to 1990. By comparing migration recall data given by the same informant for the same years but at two different points in time, it is possible to test whether and to what extent informants’ memories of specific migration and local labor-market events changed over time. Second, the ENHRUM II administered a short memory and intellectual capacity test to the key informant providing migration and work histories in each household. The memory test, based on the HVLT developed at The Johns Hopkins University, was designed via collaboration between El Colegio de Mexico, the University of California at Davis, and the World Bank. To the extent that these tests reflect innate memory and intellectual abilities, the test scores provide information useful for explaining the consistency of retrospective data between the two surveys.
Informing Migration Policies: A Data Primer
Researchers in many fields, such as demography, economics, and sociology, have established various data collection methodologies and principles to answer a range of academic and policy questions on migration. Although the progress has been impressive, some basic challenges remain. This paper addresses some basic, yet fundamental, questions on identification of international migrants and how their 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, and surveys, and the design of questionnaires in household, labor market, and other relevant surveys. The paper discusses how these data sources can be used to answer policy questions in areas such as labor markets, education, or poverty. The focus is on how some of the existing shortcomings in availability, quality, and relevance of migration data can be overcome via improvements in data collection methods.
Policy Research Working Paper 7082, Informing Migration Policies: A Data Primer