Modeling International Migrant Flows: Theory, Evidence and Forecasts

World Map painted on hands with a backdrop of puffy white clouds and blue skies.


Faculty, Staff and Students: David Leblang, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, and Global Policy Center Director, Batten School

Ben Helms (Politics)

Kelsey Hunt (Batten)

Rebecca Brough (Politics & Economics)

Alexa Iadarola (Batten) Sam Morales (Batten)

Ankita Satpathy (Politics)

Eric Xu (Politics)


Across developed countries, policymakers have been surprised by recent episodes of migration, whether from Central America across the southern border of the United States or from the Middle East and North Africa into the European Union. In addition to the larger number of arrivals, receiving states have been unprepared for the new demographics of these migrant populations. Unaccompanied minors and women traveling with children make up an increasing proportion of Central American migrants to the United States, while entire families displaced by violence live in temporary arrangements inside the European Union. These instances of unforeseen increases in migration and changes in the composition of migrant flows place pressure on the receiving communities and stretch the capabilities of government officials to process arrivals and assist with resettlement or deportation.

The security of the United States (and other countries) can be enhanced by a better understanding of the causes of emigration. Identification of the timing of migration relative to the onset of a particular type of underlying cause will allow forecasting of future migrant flows in response to changes that occur in potential sending countries. Homeland security planning will be facilitated through an enhanced understanding of variation in the choice of destination country and in the demographics of migrant flows based on underlying push factors.

This project aided in the advancement of the current state of understanding regarding migrant flows and offered insights into predicting future increases in migration. Focusing primarily on documenting the impact of new and understudied factors contributing to migration, such as climatic changes and increases in violence, particular attention was paid to the timing between initial onset of a potential migration-increasing change and the manifestation of increases in migration to the United States and other countries. This emphasis on understanding time lags allows us to identify early warning signs of a potential increase in migration.