NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Emigration from Africa to Europe

October 26, 2001

Illegal immigration is a growing problem in Europe. The European Union estimates illegal immigration grew from 100,000 in 1994 to 500,000 in 1999. These aliens are primarily from Africa.

Wage differentials between areas and the proportion of young men in the population of the source country are determining factors in exit rates, say researchers. Large wage differentials encourage immigration for better pay, while young men can more easily move to new countries because they have fewer ties to the country like family or community.

  • For example, the wage gap between Africa and Europe is twice what it was between Europe and the United States in the 1800s.
  • A 10 percent rise in the foreign-domestic wage ratio between 12 European nations and the U.S. raised emigration to the U.S. by 0.7 per thousand over the short run and 1.3 over the long run.
  • This compares to an increase of one per thousand for African emigration to Europe.
  • Moreover, a 5 percent increase in the share of 15 to 34 year olds raised Irish emigration to the U.S. by 0.7-1.0 per thousand, while a similar African increase raised net emigration by 1.3 per thousand.

Researchers estimate that African emigration will eventually reach 1.3 to 1.8 per thousand, rising from an annual outflow of 0.5 million today to 1.7 million in 2025.

Source: "Out of Africa," Economic Intuition, Spring 2001; based on Timothy J. Hatton and Jeffrey G. Williamson, "Demographic and Economic Pressure on Emigration Out of Africa," Working Paper No. w8124, February 2001, National Bureau of Economic Research, and Timothy J. Hatton and Jeffrey G. Williamson, paper presented to the conference on Globalization: Trade, Financial and Political Economy Aspects, Greece, May 2000.

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