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This paper presents the features and potential uses of two new migration flow databases that were compiled as part of the DEMIG (Determinants of International Migration) project from a wide range of primary archival and digital sources. While DEMIG TOTAL reports total immigration, emigration and net migration for up to 163 countries extending back from several decades to over one century; DEMIG C2C (‘country-to-country’) covers bilateral migration flow data for 34 countries over the 1946-2011 period. The paper also discusses the methodological considerations behind decisions on the selection, compilation and categorisation of migration data in constructing the database. These databases provide unprecedented coverage and detail in terms of flow data with historical depth, the inclusion of several countries outside Europe and North America and gender breakdown. The paper argues that, despite inevitable imperfections and inconsistencies, existing migration flow data is less scarce and low-quality than is commonly assumed in the research literature, and that these databases have considerable potential to contribute to a better understanding of the nature, determinants and impacts of migration processes.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



migration data, data collection, data quality, international migration, DEMIG