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A Profile of the World's Young Developing Country Migrants

Author(s): D. J. McKenzie

This paper aims to explore different patterns of youth migration by using microdata from national censuses and large scale household surveys in order to provide a detailed description of the lives and circumstances of young migrants from developing countries. Initially, the article discusses the theoretical reasons to expect migrants to be young in terms of  individual factors, family situation and community influence. The results of the research confirm that youth make up a large share of migrants around the world, but it also shows that there is considerable diversity in the age flow and gender patterns. It is also observed that youth are a larger share of migrants to developing countries, and a smaller share of migrants to developed countries. Within this context, data reveal that the large majority of young migrants are either in school or are working and a large fraction of 12 to 14 years old and many 15 to 17 years old are accompanying or joining migrant parents. Finally, the results suggest a high degree of commonality in the youth migrant experience across a number of destination countries. In particular, developing country youth tend to work in similar occupations all around the world, and are more concentrated in these occupations than older migrants or native youth. Nevertheless, there is also considerable heterogeneity among youth migrants: 29 percent of 18 to 24 year olds are attending school in their destination country, but another 29 percent are not working or in school. This illustrates both the potential of migration for building human capital, and the fear that lack of integration prevents it from being used.

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Author(s): D. J. McKenzie


Development Research Group, World Bank


October 2006

Main theme(s):

Independent Child Migration Migration with Families

Sub-theme(s): Internal South - North South - South

Tertiary theme(s): Economic

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Keywords: Age Education Opportunity Family Gender Household Survey Quantitative


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