Aspect of Ethnicity in the Long-Term International Migration of Latvia

Denize Ponomarjova, University of Latvia
Kristine Lece, University of Latvia

The process of migration is largely affected by spatial differences in economic opportunities, where the typical variables to describe movement of migrants are used – quality of life, income levels, costs of living, unemployment rates, origin, destination, as well as personal characteristics such as age and education (Taylor, 2013). It is also important to examine the role of ethnicity in migration in Latvia today. Until now only a few studies focused on the migration analysis from perspective of ethnicity here (e.g. M. Hazans, I. Mežs, U.Ušackis, etc.).

Information on the ethnic background of the population is collected at the official level – it is recorded in Population Register (according to the information in birth certificate) as well as collected during the Population Census.

Aim of the study is to analyse the role of ethnicity in migration. Within the study the question - whether the ethnic background impacts long-term international migration - is raised.

Data and methodology: based on the data obtained from Population Register and Population Census 2011 (used to identify those persons who were really living on 01/03/2011 and who were not), the migration structure by ethnicity, country of birth, gender, age and place of residence is examined. An analysis of an international long-term migration over a six-year period has been performed.

Considering the small number of population with particular ethnic background, the study focuses on the two largest ethnic groups - Latvians (62.1% in Census 2011) and Russians (26.9%), whereas the smaller groups are combined in “others”. The point of reference is 01/01/2017.

Census 2011 data on ethnicity were collected from respondents, where 4.4% of the respondents showed a different ethnicity than in the Population Register. To avoid problem of numerator-denominator bias, specifically for this study data on ethnicity were obtained from Register.

Keywords: ethnicity, migration, population, Latvia


The process of migration is largely affected by spatial differences in economic opportunities, where the typical variables to describe movement of migrants are used – quality of life, income levels, costs of living, unemployment rates, origin, destination, as well as personal characteristics of migrants such as age and education (Taylor, 2013). During the last twenty years the number of studies on migration in Europe, including Latvia, has raised. However, it is also important to examine the role of ethnic background on migration, both from perspective of migration in Latvia today. Until now only a few studies in Latvia focused on the migration analysis from perspective of ethnicity (e.g. M. Hazans, I. Mežs, U.Ušackis, etc.).

Latvia is one of the ethnically diverse countries in the European Union (EU), where the share of ethnic minorities makes up around 38% of the total population (Central Statistical Bureau, 2017). In the most of EU countries topic on ethnicity is considered as a non-core in population statistics, whereas in Latvia, and also in the rest of Baltic States, ethnicity as a variable has always played an important role in population statistics, sociological and demographic studies. Information on the ethnic background of the population in Latvia is collected at the official level – when registering a new-born child in Latvia, information on the ethnicity of the child and its parents is recorded in the birth certificate – based on this document information is entered in the Population Register. Additionally, information on the ethnicity is collected during the population censuses.

Aim of the study is to analyse the role of ethnicity in migration. Within the study the following question is raised - whether the ethnic background impacts long-term international migration?

Data and methodology: within the study the migration structure by ethnicity, country of birth, gender, age and place of residence is analysed. Based on the data set obtained from Population Register (Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs) an analysis of migration over a six-year period has been performed. Both, long-term emigrants departing from the country and long-term immigrants arriving to the country for permanent residence or for at least one year are examined.

In order avoid (to eliminate) those persons in the data set who were emigrated from Latvia but still registered in the country, data from Population Register are linked with Population Census 2011. Data linkage by using the unique personal code helps to identify those persons who were really living in the country on 1 March 2011.

Total number of population in Latvia decreased from 2.07 million in Census 2011 to 1.95 million in 2017. Considering the small number of population with particular ethnic background, the study focuses on the two largest ethnic groups - Latvians (62.1 % in Census 2011) and Russians (26.9 %), whereas the smaller ethnic groups are combined in “others”. The point of reference is 1 January 2017.

Population Census 2011 data on ethnic background were collected from respondents (self-assessed ethnicity). 4.4% of the respondents showed a different nationality than in the Population Register. In order to avoid problem of numerator-denominator bias specifically for this study data on ethnicity (registered ethnicity) were obtained from Population Register. Preliminary results: results of study will be presented at the European Population Conference 2018 in Brussels.

Keywords: ethnicity, migration, population, Latvia

Presented in Session 1232: International Migration and Migrant Populations