OECD Regions at a Glance 2011
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branch II. Inclusion and Equal Access to Quality Services in Regions
  branch 21. Immigration trends in OECD regions

California, New York, Texas and Florida in the United States had the highest foreign-born population among OECD regions in 2005 (more than 3.6 million each). California hosts more immigrants than any OECD country and the state of New York would rank fifth, after Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and France, if compared to OECD countries. The stock of immigrants accounts for more than one-third of the total population in some TL2 regions in Australia, Canada and Switzerland, as well as in London (United Kingdom).

Immigrants are more concentrated than the native population in certain regions, although there are large variations across countries. The density index of immigrant population shows that in many countries the density of the immigrant population is at least 1.5 higher in capital regions than in any other region. In Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States, in contrast, the presence of immigrants tends to be spread across a relatively large number of regions, comprising both metropolitan areas and medium-sized cities (Figure 21.1).

International migration trends have both intensified and diversified in terms of countries and regions of destination; recent migration trends have been marked by a rapid increase in inflows, notably in southern European countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland in the context of the European Union (EU) enlargement. In four Spanish regions recent migrants represent more than 7% of the total population and the same four regions are among the top 20 TL2 regions in absolute value of recent migrants. London emerges as a major region for recent immigrants: more than 13% of the population were recent migrants and with a density index four times higher than the rest of the country (Table 21.2).

Two opposite effects contribute to explaining the changes or the persistence in the regional distribution of immigrants. On the one hand, network effects tend to generate inertia in the settlement choices of recent immigrants; on the other hand, specific policies and regional economic development may contribute to channelling new migrants towards new regions. Figure 21.2 shows a strong correlation between the percentage of recent and established migrants among the Asian-born community (similar results are found among the African- and Oceania-born and to a lesser extent for Latin-American migrants). The network effect is not identifiable in the case of European migrants. Because of the EU enlargement in 2004 new migration channels emerged from new EU member states to regions that were not hosting many migrants before the enlargement.


The stock of immigrants in a region is defined as the number of foreign-born population residing in the region in 2005. Recent migrants are defined as persons who arrived in the country within the previous five years.

The density index of the immigrant population in a region is given by the ratio between the share of immigrants in the region over total immigrants and the share of regional population over total population. The index is higher than 1 when immigrants are over-represented in a region (compared to the national average).



OECD Database on Immigrants (DIOC) and OECD Regional Database.

See Annex B for data, source and country-related metadata.

Reference years and territorial level

2005-06; TL2 and TL3.

Data on immigrants by region are not available in Chile, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Poland and Turkey.

Further information

OECD (2009), International Migration Outlook 2009, OECD Publishing. DOI: 10.1787/migr_outlook-2009-en.

OECD (2010), "Determinants of localisation of recent immigrants across OECD regions" , www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/49/45344744.pdf.

Table 21.2  Top 20 TL2 regions in terms of recent immigrants, 2005

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21.2. Top 20 TL2 regions in terms of recent immigrants, 2005
    Table in Excel

21.1 Density index of the immigrant population, 2005 Figure in Excel
Density index of the immigrant population, 2005
21.2 Share of recent and established migrants as a % of TL3 regional population, 2005 Figure in Excel
Share of recent and established migrants as a % of TL3 regional population, 2005