The Internet is Really Changing Human Migration Patterns

It’s not news to say that the Internet has changed the world. But how many ways it’s done in a subtle or not-so-subtle way is a little more surprising.

In a new study by McGill University in Montreal, the University of Oxford in Great Britain, as well as the University of Calabria in Italy and Bocconi University, researchers have put forward a new theory: the Internet has directly influenced global migration. The TL; DR version: In countries with a higher proportion of internet users there are also more people who are willing to emigrate.

In the study, the researchers examined Internet use and migration routes based on survey data from citizens from 160 countries. The data highlighted how the Internet can serve as an important information channel for migrants leaving their own country to look for other opportunities. Tools like social media allow people to compare themselves to others who live in different, sometimes more affluent countries – and move them to take a step.

In one example, the investigators found that the country of origin of migrants arriving in Italy correlated strongly with internet use in the same countries of origin. At the individual level, the relationship between internet use and migration intent was stronger among women.

The internet shapes migration patterns

“To be completely honest, we had no clear expectations as to whether the internet would play a negative or positive role in influencing migration outcomes,” Luca Maria Pesando, assistant professor at McGill University’s Institute of Sociology and Center for Population Dynamics, told Digital Trends. “Indeed, the existing literature had assumed both a positive and a negative relationship between the spread of the Internet and the decision to migrate. However, these studies have mainly focused on individual countries and on the dynamics of internal rather than international migration. Therefore, we were generally surprised to find evidence of a positive role for the internet in shaping migration intentions and decisions in more than 150 countries. “

Pesando believes this trend will only accelerate in the years to come, when projects like SpaceX’s Starlink project, which aims to deliver high quality internet worldwide, become a reality.

“I believe innovations like Starlink will further fuel international migration to high-income countries and make the world even more ‘mobile’ by bringing information to even some of the most remote parts of the world,” he said. “The problem – especially in low and middle income countries – is getting smaller [about] Have access to this type of technology but promote adequate social development strategies aimed at equipping people with the appropriate skills to use digital connectivity and filter right and wrong information. “

An article describing the research was recently published in Population and Development Review.

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