Dr. David Leblang – Modeling International Flows: Theory, Evidence and Forecast


We will conduct a two-year project to advance the current state of understanding regarding migrant flows and offer insights into predicting future increases in migration. A primary focus will be documenting the impact of new and understudied factors contributing to migration, such as climatic changes and increases in violence.

Particular attention will be paid to the timing between initial onset of a potential migration-increasing change and the manifestation of increases in migration to the United States and other countries. This emphasis on understanding time lags will allow us to identify leading indicators (early warning signs) of a potential increase in migration.
Our analysis will also address interactions between “push” factors and traditional “pull” factors, asking whether pull factors operate differently depending on the underlying reason for migration. Finally, our work will uncover variation in the demographics of migrant flows into the United States based on the underlying push factors.

The project will produce the following outcomes: (1) four academic papers published in leading policy, policy, economics, and/or immigration journals such as World Development, The American Political Science Review, Disaster, and International Migration Review. At least one paper documenting data collection, cleaning, and model development will be prepared for publication in a journal such as Scientific Data. Preliminary drafts of these papers will be presented at forums including the American Political Science Association, the International Studies Association, the World Bank’s Annual Conference on Immigration and Development, and other policy relevant conferences. (2) A fully annotated, publicly available database structured according to acceptable standards will be posted in reputable repositories including the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library, the University of Michigan’s Interuniversity Consortium for Social and Political Research (ICPSR) and the Open Science Framework (OSF). The database will be accompanied with all R scripts necessary for replication. (3) A fully transparent user interface that will facilitate forecasting of future flows based on changes in underlying factors that contribute to migration—at a minimum we will develop a desktop version of the interface, if resources permit, we will port the interface for smartphones and tables. (4) We will engage stakeholders via teleconference or comparable webinars to familiarize them with the final database and the user interface.

David Leblang, Ph.D.
Director of the Global Policy Center
Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
University of Virginia