Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting quality immigration statistics

Emigration into the US and elsewhere is a major factor influencing the economy and culture of El Salvador. Dealing with migration is a major public policy challenge for the governments of El Salvador, the US, and other countries in the region. In discussing this topic, its important to try and get good information about the number and characteristics of migrants.

Two recent reports compile what appears to be the best statistics on the flow of persons across naitonal boundaries in the Americas. The Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented their First Report on International Migration in the Americas on July 11. This report looks at migration both into and out of several countries in the Americas.

The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute published its study Mexican and Central American Immigrants in the United States in June. This study focuses on the makeup of the migrant population in the US and looks at such immigration status, family structure, income, education and geographic distribution.

Both of these studies are recommended for anyone who wants to get a more accurate picture of migration.

In contrast, you need to be wary of the statistics in the popular press, which I have often found to be inaccurate. For example, this week there is a story from the Associated Press concerning Salvadorans who are working within El Salvador to educate others about the dangers of the trip through Central America to the US. The story about those efforts is worth reading, but the story contains a number of incorrect figures about migration. It states that El Salvador's population is around 7 million -- the actual number is around 6 million. (source-CIA World Factbook). It cites "official sources" that 3 million Salvadorans live in the US -- the two reports cited above point to a figure closer to 1.6 million.   It states that 200,000 Salvadorans received temporary protected status (TPS) because of the wartime experience of the country, but TPS has nothing to do with the civil war, but instead was a response to the 2001 earthquakes.

So be careful what you believe when you see statistics on migration.   This is too important a topic to rely on inaccurate information or anecdotes when trying to make policy decisions.  I'll always try to point you to quality information, with references to my sources, when writing on this and other topics.

1 comment:

Johni said...

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