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Searching for migration: estimating Japanese migration to Europe with Google Trends data

A recent and novel study by Bert Leysen and Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe, published in Quality & Quantity, explores the topic of alternative data sources for estimating migration. More specifically, the research focuses on Google Trends data which has been identified as a potentially useful alternative data source to complement or even replace traditional data. However, the research on this is in its infancy, and as of yet suffers from a distinctive Western bias both in the topics covered and in the applicability of the methods.

To examine its wider utility, this paper evaluates the predictive potential of Google Trends data, which captures Google search frequencies, but applies it to the case of Japanese migration flows to Europe. By doing so, we focus on some of the specific challenging aspects of the Japanese language – such as its various writing systems – and of its migration flows, characterized by its relative stability and often limited size.

The results show that after careful consideration, this method has the potential to reach satisfactory predictions, but that there are many obstacles to overcome. As such, sufficient care and prior investigation are paramount when attempting this method for less straightforward cases, and additional studies need to address the key limitations more in detail to validate or annul some of the findings presented here.


Leysen, B., Verhaeghe, PP. Searching for migration: estimating Japanese migration to Europe with Google Trends data. Qual Quant (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-022-01560-0

Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11135-022-01560-0