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You Are Where You E-Mail: Global Migration Trends Discovered in Email Data

By Max Planck Gessellschaft

June 27, 2012

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Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) and Yahoo! Research recently completed a large migration database based on the global flow of millions of emails.

MPIDR's Emilio Zagheni and Yahoo! Research's Ingmar Weber traced 43 million anonymous Yahoo! users' emails from September 2009 through June 2011 in order to infer the residence of the sender. In addition to the date and geographic location of each message, the researchers incorporated the self-reported age and gender of the sender. When a user started sending emails from a new location permanently, the researchers assumed that they had changed residence, which allowed them to determine rates of migration to and from almost every country in the world. In the United States, the researchers were able to produce a chart of emigration by age and gender.

The data is supported by the vast number of emails available, as well as by a mathematical model that adjusts for typical shortcomings of email statistics, such as the fact that older generations tend to use email less or not at all, and thus are underrepresented.

"This research has the most potential in developing countries, where the Internet spreads much faster than registration programs develop," Zagheni says.

From Max Planck Gessellschaft
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