Estimating Migration Flows Using Online Search Data

Abstract

This study was conducted in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to explore how online search data could be analysed to understand migration flows. Using Australia as a case study, Google search query data from around the world was disaggregated by country and compared to historical official monthly migration statistics provided by UNFPA. Correlations were observed between relevant search queries (for example, searching for ‘jobs in Melbourne’) and official migration statistics (number of people who migrated to Melbourne). In particular, queries from specific locations in Australia related to local employment opportunities showed highest correlation. The research findings point toward new possibilities for further exploration into using online and other digital search data as proxy for migration statistics.

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