This study explores how online search trend data can be utilized to better understand global migration flows. Using Australia as a case study, Google search query data from around the world was compared to official monthly statistics on migrant arrivals from January 2008 to December 2013, disaggregated by country of origin of migrants. The study aimed to define both, potentials an limittaions of using online search data to help improve the reliability, accessibility and frequency of migration flow data.
The results of this approach showed considerable correlations between relevant search queries (for example, searching for ‘jobs in Melbourne’) and official migration flow statistics (number of people who migrated to Melbourne). In particular, queries for specific locations in Australia related to local employment opportunities showed the highest correlation with recorded inmigration flows to those locations. The research team accentuates that while these results are promising, further research is required to strengthen the case for using online search data in the international migration development and policy context. In particular, this study can be replicated with other destination countries that provide comparable ground truth data.
(Picture: © Reuben Lim, IOM)