Reports 2015/17

Emigration among immigrants in Norway

Part 1: Literature review, macro analysis and regional patterns

This publication is in Norwegian only.

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Why do more than 20,000 immigrants leave Norway each year? In this report, we have tried to examine various reasons for why some immigrants emigrate and their characteristics. First, we have studied the international scientific literature to find factors that may determine immigrants’ emigration from relatively wealthy countries. Second, we have conducted a macro analysis where we have studied how fluctuations in economic conditions – such as unemployment and income level – have influenced immigrants’ emigration from Norway in recent decades. Lastly, we have linked data on all individuals in the Norwegian population register and compared immigrants who emigrate with those who remain. Here we present the first descriptive analyses of this material, emphasizing the regional dimension.

Our literature review shows that a number of factors might affect immigrants' emigration from a wealthy country. In addition to the general determinants of international migration – such as income differences between countries, unemployment, population structure, immigrant network, political conditions and distance between country of origin and country of destination – there appears to be several other factors that affect this type of emigration: The tendency to emigrate from a rich country is higher for immigrants who arrived for employment or education, for people who do not have close family in the country of residence and who have strong ties to their country of origin, and for immigrants who find that the conditions in their country of origin improves. For the correlation between emigration and other factors such as education, age and whether the immigrant “succeeds” in the destination country, the literature is more ambiguous.

Emigration among immigrants in Norway resembles, in many ways, the emigration found among immigrants in other rich countries: There is a clear majority of young adults, mainly men, with a short duration of residence who emigrate. Further, a relatively large proportion originates from other rich countries. If we compare emigration frequencies in different immigrant groups, we find much of the same pattern. A group’s emigration frequency shows the proportion of people in this group who migrate in a given year. We find particularly high emigration frequencies among men, young adults (18-34 years) and young children (0-6 years), people with short residence time (0-2 years) and especially among individuals from Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. But we also find that these emigration frequencies change over time.

In our macro analysis we investigate whether fluctuations in various groups’ emigration frequencies may be due to macroeconomic fluctuations. We find that changes in unemployment rates and income differences between Norway and immigrants’ areas of origin seem to bear a certain importance for emigration frequencies, but not as strong as one might expect. The unemployment rate in Norway seems to affect the emigration of immigrants from the new EU countries in Eastern Europe, while emigration among immigrants from Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand instead seems to be affected by unemployment in their area of origin. Income differences between Norway and other parts of the world do not seem to affect the emigration frequencies among immigrants from the new EU countries, but they seem to affect the emigration of immigrants from other parts of the world.

Our regional analysis shows some differences in emigration patterns in various parts of Norway. When we compare municipalities by centrality, we find that emigration frequencies in the first years after the millennium were highest from the least central municipalities, while emigration frequencies in recent years have been highest from the most central municipalities. Among counties, we find the highest emigration frequencies in Sør-Trøndelag, Troms, Oslo, Sogn og Fjordane and Rogaland. In Oslo and Rogaland emigration frequencies have increased in recent years. Apart from Oslo, the remaining counties in eastern and southern Norway have lower emigration frequencies than the average. Particularly, the emigration frequencies are low in the Agder counties and in Østfold.

In the interpretation of our findings it may be worth noting that not all emigrations from Norway are reported to the Norwegian population register. In some cases, an emigration is registered in the system several years after the person actually left the country. This means that an immigrant who moved from Norway in a recession, can be registered as emigrated a few years later when the economy is different. Thus, fluctuations in the registered emigration frequencies do not necessarily merely reflect the fluctuations in the real emigration from Norway, but also fluctuations in the population register’s work on out-registration of emigrants who did not report their emigration.

It is also worth noting that in this phase of the project, we have not analyzed all the factors that may affect whether an immigrant emigrates. From the international research literature, we know that family relationships, educational level and main reason for immigration are factors that may help explain whether an immigrant stays or leaves. In the next phase of this project we will be able to take such factors into account.

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