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News Release 08-197

Using Mathematical Models to Predict Global Migration

Mathematicians create a new approach to figure out who will move where in the 21st Century

An artist's rendition of the continents of the world.

In the coming decades, millions of people will leave their home countries and settle elsewhere.
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November 6, 2008

View a video interview of Joel E. Cohen of Rockefeller University and Columbia University.

The growing pace of globalization has increased the level of human migration as individuals and families move from one country or continent to another to escape hardships or seek a better future. The world's future stability will require the various countries that will lose and receive people to be prepared for this trend.

Joel E. Cohen, a researcher at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, discussed his work on developing mathematical models to predict human migration patterns in a videotaped interview. In this interview, Cohen describes how he and his colleagues developed a sophisticated mathematical model that gives policy makers a better estimate of which countries and regions will face declining populations and which ones will grow as people move around the world.

The United Nations and other agencies are interested in using this new approach, which is a departure from traditional population modeling.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.


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Dana W. Cruikshank, NSF, (703) 292-8070,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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Joel E. Cohen discusses his work on developing math models to predict human migration patterns.
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Joel E. Cohen discusses his work on developing math models to predict human migration patterns.
Credit and Larger Version