Immigrant emigration: An overlooked dimension of geographical mobility

The demographic situation in France
By Matthieu Solignac, Catriona Dutreuilh

This article analyses the geographical mobility of immigrants with respect to natives, taking account of departures from the receiving country. While the residential mobility of most natives is confined within national borders, a large proportion of immigrants return to their country of birth or depart to another international destination. However, as retrospective methods are generally applied to study residential mobility, and suitable data on departures from the national territory are lacking, these emigration flows are often overlooked. Adopting a novel approach, this study analyses rates of departure from French municipalities, for whatever destination. Based entirely on the follow-up of individual movements, this approach moves beyond the dichotomy between internal and international migration to provide an overall measure of mobility, including emigration. Using a large set of administrative panel data representative of the general population, drawn from full censuses and civil records, this study was able to systematically follow all individual trajectories on the territory of metropolitan France between 1968 and 1999 while remaining representative of the population as a whole. Levels of immigrant mobility prove to be much higher than those habitually measured using retrospective methods. They are 30–50% higher than those of natives. Between one-quarter and one-third of immigrants observed in a given census have left France within seven to nine years.


  • geographic mobility
  • internal migration
  • immigrant
  • emigration
  • onward migration
  • remigration
  • census data
  • panel
Go to the article on