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Migration in Times of Economic Crisis

What do foreign-born citizens do?

Do foreigners migrate more when a country faces a major economic crisis? In a recent publication, Victoria Prieto, Joaquín Recaño and Doris Cristina Quintero-Lesmes explored the case of Spain from 2006 to 2013 by looking at internal migration and international emigration among the foreign-born population in Spain. The authors used data from the Residential Variation Statistics and considered return migration and remigration to a third country when exploring international movements. In order to access the effects of different phases of the economic crisis, they looked at three separate periods: Pre-crisis (2006-2008), economic collapse (2009-2010) and recession (2011–2013).

Their results suggest that return migration and emigration to a third country increased significantly with respect to internal migration at all stages of the crisis. In contrast, internal migration was more likely than international emigration before the crisis started. Regardless of birth place, having Spanish citizenship was found to be an asset for mobility within Spain and the EU among all foreign-born individuals, while among those without Spanish citizenship the likelihood of internal migration actually decreased. Once the recession was firmly established, their reluctance regarding long-distance internal migration became a permanent feature.