Life Expectancy at Birth and Net Migration

Diego Mendez-Carbajo, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,
Author Profile

Summary

Students will search for data on life expectancy at birth and net migration, mapping them and underscoring the reasons for international migration.

Context for Use

This activity is appropriate for Principles, Introductory Microeconomics, and for elective courses such as Labor Economics and Development Economics.

Background knowledge on the topic can be supplemented through the materials listed in the "Information given to students." Instructors are encouraged to design Just-In-Time-Teaching questions to improve student preparation and target instruction (See here: https://serc.carleton.edu/econ/justintime/index.html).

Students must be able to follow directions on the GeoFRED site: search for data; modify the units; change the date range; choose map colors; and edit the legends.

To preserve class time for activities in which there is great benefit in face-to-face interaction, the instructor could copy the map-building instructions into a handout and assign that work as out-of-class preparation.

No class size limitations.
Time needed for the activity: 30 minutes.
Should not need more one class period.
Self-standing activity.

Overview

Students search for data and visualize them in GeoFRED, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis online mapping tool. The learning goals of this activity are: (1) to observe patterns in economic data and note differences across geographical areas; (2) hypothesize the reasons for those patterns and differences.
The intended outcome of the activity is the illustration of the relationship between life expectancy at birth and net migration and the potential explanations for this relationship.

Expected Student Learning Outcomes

In this exercise students will be able to:
1. Observe an inverse relationship between life expectancy at birth and net migration across nations;
2. Evaluate the reasons for the observed inverse relationship between life expectancy at birth and net migration.

Information Given to Students

Go to the following web address and watch the video: https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/primers/migration-and-development/

On the GeoFRED website, https://geofred.stlouisfed.org/, create a map by following these instructions:
1. Click on "Build New Map"
2. Click on "Tools"
3. Click on "Choose Data" and select "Region Type: Nation"
4. Select "Data: Life Expectancy at Birth"
5. Select "Date: 2017"
6. Click on "Choose Colors" and select "Divergent: rdylgn"
7. Click on "Edit Legend" and select "Number of Color Classes: 5"
8. Select "Equal Interval"
Open a new tab browser, go to the GeoFRED website, and create a second map by following these instructions:
1. Click on "Build New Map"
2. Click on "Tools"
3. Click on "Choose Data" and select "Region Type: Nation"
4. Select "Data: Net migration"
5. Select "Date: 2017-01-01"
6. Click on "Choose Colors" and select "Divergent: rdylgn"
7. Click on "Edit Legend" and select "Number of Color Classes: 5"
8. Enter "-400000" in the top value box, "-120000" in the second value box from the top, "0" in the third value box from the top, "120000" in the third value box from the top and "480000" in the bottom value box.

Examine the maps and hypothesize the reasons for the observed relationship between life expectancy at birth and net migration.

Rank the following factors in order from the most likely to influence the observed relationship between life expectancy at birth and net migration to the factors least likely to influence the observed relationship.

A. In-country conflict drives international migration;
B. Poverty drives international migration;
C. Poor educational opportunities drive international migration;
D. International conflict drives international migration.

Work in two phases: first, identify and discuss the most important factor; second, identify and discuss the least important factor.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Figure 1. 2017 Life Expectancy at Birth, Total by Nation. http://geof.red/m/hql

Figure 2. 2017-01-01 Net migration by Nation. http://geof.red/m/hqk

What prefatory remarks should set up the application exercise?
We all strive to make our –and our family's– lives better. In some cases, the struggle requires leaving one's country of birthplace. In order to highlight the primordial driver of migration, this exercise allows students to visualize the relationship between life expectancy at birth and net international migration. The goal of this exercise is to encourage students to think about the various reasons for such correlation.

What kinds of strategies are recommended for facilitating reporting and inter-group conversations?
The instructor should direct student groups to work in two phases: first, have team reporters identify and discuss the most important determinant factor; second, have team reporters identify and discuss the least important determinant factor.

What kinds of follow-up questions are recommended for facilitating the debriefing conversation among team reporters?
On the first map, the red and orange colors indicate countries where the life expectancy at birth is low. On the second map, the red and orange colors indicate countries where there is more emigration than immigration.

The reasons for low life expectancy at birth are varied. Some are more dominant than others for particular countries at specific points in time. For example: internal conflict in Syria; external conflict in Afghanistan; poverty in Chad and Nigeria. Regardless of the cause, international migration is the last recourse for many individuals seeking a better future for themselves and their families. Although the relationship between low national income and negative net migration might seem obvious to residents in the developed world, it is not illustrated here.

What points should be emphasized in the instructor's summary remarks to conclude the exercise?
A. Between 2000 and 2017, world-wide international migration increased 50%, totaling 258 million people;
B. In 2017, there were an estimated 36.1 million migrant children, 4.4 million international students, and 150.3 million migrant workers;
C. In 2017, 48% of the migrants were women;
D. There are approximately 28 million forcibly displaced persons across international borders, including over 25 million refugees and 3 million asylum seekers.

Assessment

Since there is no universal ranking order of the factors influencing international migration, the instructor would judge team answers based on the quality of arguments presented:
1) A correlation between low life expectancy at birth and large net migration flows is observed;
2) Some migration is forced by conflict (either in-country or international) and some migration results from the drive to improve life standards (avoiding poverty or acquiring skills/education);
2) Country-by-country compelling arguments are presented in the ranking of reasons for the observed correlation.
The following essay question could be asked as a follow-up to the exercise:
Low life expectancy at birth and large net migration flows are correlated. What economic argument(s) can explain this relationship? Explain your argument(s) carefully.

References and Resources

https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/migration/index.html
https://time.com/longform/migrants/