Migration research: What can we learn from linked administrative data?

Migration flows and the share of the foreign-born population have increased substantially in recent decades in several countries, including the UK. In 2021, 10 million people residing in England and Wales were born outside of the UK. This is an increase of 2.5 million people from 2011, when the foreign-born population was 7.5 million.

The increasing diversity of the population has brought questions surrounding the labour market performance and integration of immigrants to the forefront of political and public debate. Indeed, there has been considerable academic interest in how non-UK-born workers fare in the labour market.

Research to date has primarily relied on survey data to explore these issues. While valuable, survey datasets are not free of limitations. For instance, most surveys do not track individuals over time. This makes it difficult to study how immigrant workers' labour market performance changes as they continue to reside in the UK. Moreover, survey data often has limited information on employers of the workers. This limits our ability to compare immigrant and UK-born workers within the same firm and, therefore, understand the role individual employers play.

Exploring the links between immigration, integration, and labour market outcomes

The new ASHE linked to Census 2011 dataset offers rich information to overcome these challenges. It follows individuals over time and includes accurate, de-identified information on various aspects of their employment including their employers. Additionally, it includes key variables for migration research, such as country of origin, year of arrival, and more.

I will use this data to compare the labour market outcomes of immigrant workers and those born in the UK. This includes looking at differences in aspects like pay, working hours, the types of jobs they have, and the kind of employment contracts they hold.

I will also investigate factors that may influence differences, such as education levels, occupations, and the role of individual employers. The detailed information included in the dataset will allow me to examine differences among immigrant workers based on factors including language proficiency or self-defined national identity. It will also enable me to conduct a detailed exploration of changes over time by following the same de-identified individuals.

Providing comprehensive and contemporary evidence for England and Wales

My aim is to provide new, high-quality evidence on the labour market performance and integration of immigrant workers in England and Wales – the first of its kind using this novel linked administrative dataset. This evidence will help us identify any differences in the labour market and understand the main drivers of such differences. This is particularly important before recommending what might be done to reduce or challenge labour market inequalities.

What happens to immigrants after they arrive in the UK holds a central role in government policy, particularly in relation to integration policy measures. By analysing the link between labour market performance and integration, the project will offer valuable insights into political and public discourse on UK immigration and integration policy. These insights, in turn, will be informative for the implementation of sound practices and policy responses to the increasing diversity of the population.

You can find more details about my project on the project page.

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