The Annals of Regional Science

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 63–89 | Cite as

Immigrants’ location choice in Belgium

  • Hubert Jayet
  • Glenn Rayp
  • Ilse Ruyssen
  • Nadiya Ukrayinchuk
Original Paper


This paper analyzes international migration streams to Belgian municipalities between 1994 and 2007. The Belgian population register constitutes a rich and unique database of yearly migrant inflows and stocks broken down by nationality, allowing us to empirically explain the location choice of newly arriving immigrants at the municipality level. Specifically, we aim at separating the network effect from other location-specific characteristics such as local labor or housing market conditions and the presence of public amenities. Our main contribution to the migration literature is to model labor and housing market variables as operating at different levels, assuming that immigrants first select a region roughly corresponding to a labor market and subsequently choose a municipality within this region that maximizes their utility. Among other things, this allows us to shed new light on the still ongoing discussion in the literature concerning the impact of labor market characteristics on the location of immigrants. We find that the spatial repartition of immigrants in Belgium is determined by both network effects and local characteristics. The relative importance of the determinants of location choice varies by nationality, as expected, but for all nationalities, local factors matter more than networks.

JEL Classification

F22 J61 R23 



The authors are much indebted to comments on an earlier draft of this paper by two anonymous referees. We are grateful to participants to the “Economics of Global Interactions: New Perspectives on Trade, Factor Mobility and Development Conference” (Bari, 2011), “North American Regional Science Council Conference” (Miami, 2011), “Annual Conference of the European Regional Science Association” (Lausanne, 2011), “18th International Panel Data Conference” (Paris, 2012), “Norface Migration: Global Development, New Frontiers” (London, 2013) as well as research seminars at SHERPPA (Ghent University) and IRES (Université Catholique de Louvain). Responsibility for any remaining errors lies with the authors.

Supplementary material

168_2016_761_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (4.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 4271 KB)


  1. Åslund O (2005) Now and forever? Initial and subsequent location choices of immigrants. Reg Sci Urban Econ 35(2):141–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Accetturo A, Manaresi F, Mocetti S, Olivieri E (2014) Don’t stand so close to me: the urban impact of immigration. Reg Sci Urban Econ 45:45–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anselin L (1988) Spatial econometrics: methods and models, vol 4. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arbaci S (2008) (Re)viewing ethnic residential segregation in Southern European cities: housing and urban regimes as mechanisms of marginalisation. Hous Stud 23(4):589–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartel A (1989) Where do the new US immigrants live? J Labor Econ 7(4):371–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauer T, Epstein G, Gang I (2002) Herd effects or migration networks? The location choice of Mexican immigrants in the US. IZA Discussion Paper 551Google Scholar
  7. Bauer T, Epstein G, Gang I (2005) Enclaves, language, and the location choice of migrants. J Popul Econ 18(4):649–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beine M, Docquier F, Rapoport H (2008) Brain drain and human capital formation in developing countries: winners and losers. Econ J 118:631–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bertoli S, Fernández-Huertas Moraga J (2013) Multilateral resistance to migration. J Dev Econ 102:79–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bertoli S, Brücker H, Fernández-Huertas Moraga J (2013) The European crisis and migration to Germany: expectations and the diversion of migration flows. IZA Discussion Paper 7170Google Scholar
  11. Blázquez M, Llano C, Moral J (2010) Commuting times: is there any penalty for immigrants? Urban Stud 47(8):1663–1686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boeri T (2010) Immigration to the land of redistribution. Economica 77:613–800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Borjas G (1993) L’impact des immigrés sur les possibilités d’emploi des nationaux. Migrations Internationales, le Tournant, Paris, OCDE pp 215–222Google Scholar
  14. Borjas G (2003) The labor demand curve is downward sloping: reexamining the impact of immigration on the labor market. Q J Econ 118(4):1335–1374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Buckley FH (1996) The political economy of immigration policies. Int Rev Law Econ 16(1):81–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carrington W, Detragiache E, Vishwanath T (1996) Migration with endogenous moving costs. Am Econ Rev 86(4):909–930Google Scholar
  17. Chau N (1997) The pattern of migration with variable migration cost. J Reg Sci 37(1):35–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (2004) Where immigrants settle in the United States. IZA Discussion Paper 1231(1231)Google Scholar
  19. Clark X, Hatton TJ, Williamson JG (2007) Where do U.S. immigrants come from, and why? Rev Econ Stat 89:359–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Clemens M (2011) Economics and emigration: trillion dollar bills on the sidewalk. J Econ Perspect 25:83–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Crozet M, Mayer T, Mucchielli JL (2004) How do firms agglomerate: a study of FDI in France. Reg Sci Urban Econ 34:27–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Damm A (2009) Determinants of recent immigrants’ location choices: quasi-experimental evidence. J Popul Econ 22(1):145–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Docquier F, Rapoport H (2012) Globalization, brain drain, and development. J Econ Lit 50:681–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Docquier F, Peri G, Ruyssen I (2014) The cross-country determinants of potential and actual migration. Int Migr Rev 48(S1):37–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dodson ME (2001) Welfare generosity and location choices among new United States immigrants. Int Rev Law Econ 21(1):47–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Drever AI, Clark WA (2002) Gaining access to housing in Germany: the foreign-minority experience. Urban Stud 39(13):2439–2453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dustmann C, Frattini T, Preston I (2012) The effect of immigration along the distribution of wages. Rev Econ Stat 80:145–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Edin PA, Fredriksson P, Åslund O (2003) Ethnic enclaves and the economic success of immigrants—evidence from a natural experiment. Q J Econ 118(1):329–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Epstein G (2008) Herd and network effects in migration decision-making. J Ethn Mig Stud 34(4):567–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Friedberg R, Hunt J (1995) The impact of immigrants on host country wages, employment and growth. J Econ Perspect 9(2):23–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gallardo-Sejas H, Gil-Pareja S, Llorca-Vivero R, Martínez-Serrano J (2006) Determinants of European immigration: a cross-country analysis. Appl Econ Lett 13(12):769–773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Heitmueller A (2003) Coordination failures in network migration. IZA Discussion Paper 770Google Scholar
  33. Jayet H, Ukrayinchuk N (2007) La localisation des immigrants en France: Une première approche. Revue d’Economie Régionale et Urbaine 4:625–649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jayet H, Ukrayinchuk N, Arcangelis GD (2010) The location of immigrants in Italy: disentangling networks and local effects. Ann Econ Stat 97(98):329–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Karemera D, Oguledo VI, Davis B (2000) A gravity model analysis of international migration to North America. Appl Econ 32(13):1745–1755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Le Bras H, Labbé M (1993) La planète au village: Migrations et peuplement en France. DATAR, La Tour d’Aigues: Editions de l’AubeGoogle Scholar
  37. Lewer J, Van den Berg H (2008) A gravity model of immigration. Econ Lett 99(1):164–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Magnusson L, Özüekren AS (2002) The housing careers of Turkish households in middle-sized Swedish municipalities. Hous Stud 17(3):465–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mayda A (2010) International migration: a panel data analysis of the determinants of bilateral flows. J Popul Stud 23:1249–1274Google Scholar
  40. Mayer T, Mucchielli JL (1999) La localisation á l’étranger des entreprises multinationales: Une approche d’économie géographique hiérarchisée appliquée aux entreprises japonaises en Europe. Econ Stat 362:159–176Google Scholar
  41. McFadden D (1978) Modelling the choice of residential location. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  42. Ortega F, Peri G (2012) The effect of income and immigration policies on international migration. Boston Working Paper NBER p 18322Google Scholar
  43. Ottaviano G, Peri G (2012) Rethinking the effects of immigration on wages. J Eur Econ Assoc 10:152–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pedersen PJ, Pytlikova M, Smith N (2008) Selection and network effects—migration flows into OECD countries 1990–2000. Eur Econ Rev 52(7):1160–1186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rapoport H, Docquier F (2006) Handbook of the economics of giving, altruism and reciprocity, vol 2, Elsevier, Amsterdam, North Holland, chap The economics of migrant’s remittancesGoogle Scholar
  46. Rebelo EM (2012) Work and settlement locations of immigrants: how are they connected? The case of the oporto metropolitan area. Eur Urban Reg Stud 19(3):312–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roux G (2004) L’évolution des opinions relatives aux étrangers: Le cas de la France. Informations Sociales 113Google Scholar
  48. Ruyssen I, Everaert G, Rayp G (2014) Determinants and dynamics of migration to OECD countries in a three-dimensional panel framework. EMP Econ 46(1):175–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schönwälder K, Söhn J (2009) Immigrant settlement structures in Germany: general patterns and urban levels of concentration of major groups. Urban Stud 46(7):1439–1460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Scott DM, Coomes PA, Izyumov AI (2005) The location choice of employment-based immigrants among US metro areas. J Reg Sci 45(1):113–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simpson NB, Sparbert C (2013) The short- and long-run determinants of less-educated immigrant flows into U.S. states. Southern Econ J 80(2):414–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ukrayinchuk N, Jayet H (2011) Immigrant location and network effects: the Helvetic case. Int J Manpow 32(3):313–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vang ZM (2010) Housing supply and residential segregation in Ireland. Urban Stud 47(14):2983–3012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Winkelman R, Zimmerman K (1993) Labour markets in an ageing Europe, Chap Ageing, migration and labour mobility. Cambridge University Press, pp 225–287Google Scholar
  55. Winters P, de Janvry A, Sadoulet E (2001) Family and community networks in Mexico-U.S. migration. J Hum Resour 36(1):159–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zavodny M (1997) Welfare and the locational choices of new immigrants. Econ Rev, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, pp 2–10Google Scholar
  57. Zhu P, Yang Liu C, Painter G (2014) Does residence in an ethnic community help immigrants in a recession? Reg Sci Urban Econ 47:112–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté des Sciences Economiques et SocialesUniversité de Lille - LEM CNRS UMR 9221Villeneuve d’AscqFrance
  2. 2.Faculty of Business and EconomicsGhent University - SHERPPAGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Faculté des Sciences Juridiques, Politiques et SocialesUniversité de Lille - LEM CNRS UMR 9221LilleFrance

Personalised recommendations