Academic journal article Population

Measuring International Migration through Sample Surveys: Some Lessons from the Spanish Case

Academic journal article Population

Measuring International Migration through Sample Surveys: Some Lessons from the Spanish Case

Article excerpt

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The substantial recent wave of immigration to Spain has put the capacity of the country's statistical sources to the test in terms of correctly capturing the intensity of this phenomenon. Previous studies(1) have analysed the disparate information regarding migration flows provided by the Spanish Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Residence Variation Statistics (Estadística de Variaciones Residenciales, EVR), both conducted by the Spanish National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, INE). These studies show the superior quality of the administrative source, the EVR, which is also the only one in Europe that registers all immigrants, irrespective of their legal situation. But the recent publication of the National Immigrant Survey for 2007 (Encuesta Nacional de Inmigrantes, ENI-2007), one of the first targeted migrant surveys carried out in Europe, and the introduction in 2005 of methodological changes in the Spanish LFS to better reflect the specific weight of foreign immigrants,(2) have created the need for a new comparison of the migratory information provided by the Spanish statistical system.

Based on this comparison and on an analysis of survey methodologies used to study characteristics of the immigrant population, this study reveals that the standard designs of social surveys are insufficient to obtain good estimates of international migration flows. In addition, it proposes changes that should be introduced to ensure that the efforts made to survey a difficult population group like that of immigrants, are not expended in vain. The objective is, therefore, to improve the estimation of this phenomenon through sampling techniques, given that comprehensive information regarding the multiple dimensions of migration may only be obtained through surveys. The analysis is not limited to the Spanish case. It can also provide some conclusions about the design of future national surveys targeting migrants in other European countries.

The study is structured as follows. After a brief description of the statistical sources in Section I, Section II will compare the basic characteristics of the immigrant population. The third section provides methodological reasons to explain the significant discrepancies that were detected with respect to the year of arrival. More specifically, the origin of a hypothetical bias in the estimate of the recently arrived immigrants in the LFS and the ENI-2007 will be studied. The main conclusions and recommendations will be presented in the final section of the paper.

I. Recent immigration to Spain

1. Statistical sources

The sample surveys offering migration information in Spain are the LFS and the ENI-2007. The LFS is a well-known quarterly sample survey designed to estimate the labour market characteristics of the population aged 16 and over residing in principal family dwellings. Although it was never intended to measure mobility, the questionnaire now incorporates questions which can be used to estimate the stock of foreign immigrants and of domestic and international flows. The survey includes the variable of nationality and country of birth, so the stock of the non-national population or the population born abroad may be estimated. With regard to flows, the survey asks all foreigners to give their year of arrival in Spain and asks all respondents to indicate the country of residence one year before the survey.

The ENI-2007 (Appendix 1) supplies information on the demographic and social characteristics of the foreign-born population aged 16 and over residing in family dwellings in Spain on 1 January 2007. The ENI-2007 is characterized by its wide geographical and population scope and its extensive subject matter, making it possible to study the dimensions of immigration across different groups throughout the whole of Spain.

The registers that provide migration information in Spain are the Municipal Population Registers (MPR) and the residence variation statistics (EVR) derived from them. …

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