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Researchers Detect Migration Trends from E-Mail

New research finds that e-mail is a good source of human-migration data for almost every country of the world. Official records from different nations are typically inconsistent and often are missing key information. Also, migrants frequently never register with government agencies. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research scientist Emilio Zagheni created a migration database by compiling the global flow of millions of e-mails. He and Ingmar Weber, a researcher with Yahoo! Research, traced 43 million anonymized e-mails based on their IP addresses between September 2009 and June 2011. When a person started sending e-mail from a new location permanently, the researchers assumed it was due to a residence change. This approach could track migrants within or between countries. The researchers adjusted their model to compensate for underrepresented populations such as the elderly, who tend to use e-mail less frequently. Zagheni said his approach could mine data to address many types of population dynamics, including mobility patterns following natural disasters. “This research has the most potential in developing countries,” he said, “where the Internet spreads much faster than [migration] registration programs develop.” The scientists published their findings in the ACM Web Science 2012 conference proceedings. (PhysOrg)(Max Planck Society)

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