What do we know about migration? Informing the debate / CReAM

“Introduction and Highlights

The purpose of this briefing note is to inform the UK’s national discussion about immigration.

Immigration is a matter of deep concern to millions of people, it receives extensive coverage and commentary in our national media and it is the subject of strong and intensive national political and polemical debate, both in the run-up to the forthcoming European Parliament elections and more generally.

Given the emotional power of the subject – going as it does to the heart of the lives of many people – the facts about immigration should play a high and significant role in the discussions which take place.

In recent years a great deal of top-quality research has taken place upon the nature of immigration to the UK and its impact upon our economy and society. Some of this has been carried out as part of the work of the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM)1 at University College London. We are publishing this briefing note in the hope that the real facts about immigration can play a larger part in the public debates. Some of this research is difficult because the social and economic consequences of immigration are hard to measure. We set out in the chapters below some of the methodological challenges which the research faces.

We should make it clear that we do not have particular policy proposals, beyond a desire that this very important subject should be discussed in a way that is informed and not alarmist, low-key and not polemical.

We have identified ten impacts of migration which have been well analysed and we have a short chapter on each which provides more detail, briefly discusses some of the academic research challenges, and gives a list of references to appropriate academic study in the field.

The main highlights from this research are that:

– Immigration improves innovation, trade and entrepreneurship. In most OECD countries, immigrants are more likely than natives to start new businesses. In the UK, immigrants are more likely to be self-employed.

-Recent immigrants tend to claim less in benefits than native-born British people, though there are variations relating to the type of benefit and the immigrant group.

-Recent immigrant households and groups contribute more in taxes than is spent on them. There are significant variations, though recent immigrants, particularly from the European Union, make a consistently positive contribution.

1 http://www.cream-migration.org

3-Not all immigrants are entitled to claim all benefits. There is no or limited evidence that immigration is driven by welfare generosity. The labour market is a greater factor.

– Most research into the impact of immigration upon wage rates or levels of employment suggests that there is little impact; if there is an impact to reduce wages, it is small and probably short-term.

– About 25-30% of immigrants from outside Europe settle in the UK as a family member, though this proportion is falling. Over 80% of these are spouses, half of whom are sponsored by British citizens.

-One in five health professionals are immigrants. -Immigrants use health and GP services about as much as the native-born population.

On arrival they are typically healthier than the native-born population.

-About 10% of 15-years old secondary students enrolled in UK schools have both parents born abroad and of those, a little less than a half were themselves born abroad. This figure is slightly above the OECD average.

-About 18% of pupils enrolled in primary schools and 14% in secondary schools, do not speak English as first language when at home.

-There were about 435,000 international students in UK universities bringing over £10 billion to the UK economy in 2011. In 2012/13 the number of overseas students dropped for the first time in 29 years.

-There is no evidence that economically motivated immigration has any impact on rates of crime.

-Migration is a very important means through which individuals can lift themselves out of poverty. About 215 million people – 3 percent of the world population – live outside their country of birth. Official remittances from international migrants towards developing countries amount to over $400 billion, though the full amount is significantly larger. This is nearly three times the amount of official aid.

-The percentage of British residents born overseas is 13%. This compares to France and Germany (12%) and the US and Spain (14%) Ireland (16%), Canada (21%) Australia (28%) and Switzerland (29%).

UK citizens living abroad represent 7.5% of the UK population.


This briefing has been prepared by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London.

The following people have contributed to the realisation of this briefing: Dr Marco Alfano Dr Michele Battisti Rt Hon Charles Clarke

Dr Thomas Cornelissen Prof Christian Dustmann Dr Francesco Fasani Dr Tommaso Frattini

Mr Simon Gorlach Mr Luigi Minale Dr Anna Okatenko Prof Ian Preston Prof Jonathan Wadsworth”

Link: http://www.cream-migration.org/files/Migration-FactSheet.pdf

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