February 28, 2018

Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2017

Please select a country on the map

In 2017, people born in were living in other countries.

In 2017, people living in were born in other countries.

The figures in this interactive feature refer to the total number (or cumulative “stocks”) of migrants living around the world as of 1990, 2000, 2010 or 2017 rather than to the annual rate of migration (or current “flows”) in a given year. Since migrants have both an origin and a destination, international migrants can be viewed from two directions – as an emigrant (leaving an origin country) or as an immigrant (entering a destination country).

According to the United Nations Population Division, an international migrant is someone who has been living for one year or longer in a country other than the one in which he or she was born. This means that many foreign workers and international students are counted as migrants. Additionally, the UN considers refugees and, in some cases, their descendants (such as Palestinians born in refugee camps outside of the Palestinian territories) to be international migrants. For the purposes of this interactive feature, estimates of the number of unauthorized immigrants living in various countries are also included in the total counts. On the other hand, tourists, foreign-aid workers, temporary workers employed abroad for less than a year and overseas military personnel typically are not counted as migrants.


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Note: Estimates between 0 and 999 are shown as <1,000. Estimates between 1,000 and 9,999 are shown as <10,000. Estimates starting at 10,000 or greater are rounded to the nearest 10,000.

This interactive is based on international migrant data published by the United Nations (see “Notes” worksheet in the data for more information on the UN’s methodology). The United Nations uses a taxonomy of nations and territories and classifies migrants born in territories as international migrants, even if their citizenship is different from their territory of birth. For example, UN data counts people born in Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, as international migrants even though they are U.S. citizens by birth. For this reason, some UN estimates of the foreign-born population shown here may differ from other estimates published by the U.S. Census Bureau or Pew Research Center. As another example, recent Pew Research Center estimates show that fewer new Mexican immigrants enter the U.S. and a greater number return to Mexico. The UN migration estimates do not reflect this recent Mexico-U.S. trend and thus differ from previously published Pew Research Center estimates of the Mexican immigrant population in the U.S. Data for individual countries are based on the UN’s list of countries in 2017, even if some of these countries did not exist or had different boundaries in earlier years. Finally, estimates in this interactive do not list the origins of the world’s migrants (numbering about 10.6 million, or 4% of the world’s international migrant population in 2017) that are unknown.

Source: United Nations Population Division.