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Social and Public Service Impacts of International Migration at the Local Level

Research Report 72

When speaking about migrants and the impact of migration, migrants are often referred to as if they are a unified group. This is in part because immigration policy creates a clear legal boundary between the rights and freedoms of migrants and the population who are permanently resident in the country. However, this view is also to some degree a product of the limitations in data sources, which are usually unable to capture the significant differences in impacts and experience within the migrant population. This can be because the administrative systems from which some data are drawn were not designed to identify, or are unable to clarify at the point of recording, a person’s immigration status or nationality. In other cases, sample surveys often lack sufficient numbers of respondents to identify in a robust manner the differences shown by smaller sub-groups within the population.

However, like other groups within the population, migrants do not comprise a singular type with similar impacts, nor are migrant populations spread evenly (or received evenly) across the country. Some parts of the country have had relatively little experience of migration. In other places, populations have a long experience of migration and are ‘hyperdiverse’ with large numbers of migrants. Those migrants arrive for a variety of reasons, some to work, some to study, some to join or make a new family, others to receive protection from persecution. Their varied characteristics have a considerable influence on whether they integrate well and the benefits or burden that they bring to a particular community.

This research is the first attempt to address some of these issues from a more rigorous analytical perspective. It provides an evidence-based and more finely tuned assessment of the different population effects of migration on local authority areas across England and Wales than has previously been available. It also provides a framework as a starting point to help to develop an understanding of the impacts that different types of migrants can have on local areas and their public services.
It is hoped that this report will not only help to inform current debates about the role that migration can play, but also help to provide the groundwork for further research to explore these differences and enable the UK’s response to migration to become better attuned to its innate diversity. The 2011 Census for England and Wales, when its richer datasets are released later this year, will also allow these issues to be explored further, in new ways.