IMILA: Research on International Migration in Latin America

In Latin America, the last few decades have witnessed migration flows and has become the subject of serious policy debates. These migration flows have changed significantly in terms of size, direction, general characteristics and their overall impact in concerned countries, both countries of origin and host countries.

Historical Justification

Historically speaking, migration in Latin America have been closely related to economic, political and social imbalances. ECLAC has pointed out three major migration patterns in Latin America and the Caribbean:

  • Historical immigration into Latin America from overseas between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, with a strong European component.
  • Intra-regional migration, favored by socio-economic developments and structural factors, particularly between the years 1970 and 1990, which saw the highest rates of migration within Latin America.
  • South-north migration flows, resulting in the loss of qualified workers in Latin America and the Caribbean, the emergence of immigrant communities, and the development of an economic potential associated with the remittances sent by migrants to their countries of origin.

Impact of Migration on Destination Countries

The flows of international migration in Latin America has various effects on the economic and social life of the people. It is clearly evident that it has had its influence on education, health, international trade etc.

Labor Market

Migration has proven to be a tool that influences the labor market of destination or host countries. It has a way of affecting the wages and employability of the natives. When immigrants and natives compete for jobs, it leads to displacement and lower wages. However, immigrants can also be complements, when they seem to increase the demand for complementary production tasks and native workers’ skills.


Over the years, Migration from one country to another in Latin America has also proven to have influence on education. Immigration affects the education of native-born children. When children of immigrants come into schools, there will definitely be congestion.

More so, peer effects will come into play, which could either be positive or negative. Interactions will occur between the children of natives and the children of immigrants and in the course of this, there will be a clash of characters and values which could result in peer pressure and effects.


Another aspect or sector that immigration affects is health.  When natives begin to intermingle with immigrants, it has a way of affecting their health. One major channel through which migration may affect health is the spread of infectious diseases. The health conditions of migrants largely depend on the epidemiological profile of their countries, the migration process, and their living conditions in destination countries. All these factors have their unique ways of affecting the health condition of both the natives and the immigrants.

For instance, if the host country had been suffering from a collapsed health system before the arrival of the immigrants, migrants might be prone to infectious diseases. However, host countries may prevent the spread of infectious diseases by subjecting the immigrants to immediate immunization upon arrival. This will help in a great way to prevent them from contracting or spreading those diseases. It will also help to smoothen the process of early detection of infected individuals which is very important in stopping the spread of these diseases.

Impact of Migration on Countries of Origin

Family Separation

One major challenge that is always created by migration is family separation. Children left behind in countries of origin are always affected by the fact that they are separated from their dear family members. This could have different effects on these children ranging from social and economic effects to psychological and health effects.

The absence of one or both parents may lead to a reduction in the quantity and quality of time allocated to the development, monitoring and nurturing of the child which could affect their emotional and psychological well-being.

These children may be left with no other alternative than to fend for themselves by doing or engaging in menial jobs. Some can even drop out of school.

Shortage in Professionalism

A very vital Challenge in countries that experience high rates of emigration is the potential shortage of certain essential occupations, like health care workers.  If the people who had migrated are high-skilled workers, their emigration will have adverse effects on the health sector of the country. This could also happen in the educational sector as emigrants may constitute a large pool of educated individuals who are expected to be present physically to contribute to the development of their home country.


Migration is a multipart phenomenon that encompasses and touches important aspects of life - economic, social, and security. To advance positively in the debate over the effects, positive or negative, of migration on countries of origin and destination countries, more adequate verifiable evidence is needed, particularly for informing governments about major policy issues. It will also be a great development that will yield positive results if more research can be done.