Phyllisia Ross, Isabel Allende, Rodney Wallace. Three migrants making creative and inspiring contributions to their communities. And they’re not alone.

The positive impacts of migration for both host and origin communities have been well documented. However, they are often underreported or unacknowledged in public debates. According to migration policy research, there are three main categories through which migrants contribute to their communities:

  • Sociocultural refers to social and cultural factors, such as habits, traditions and beliefs.
  • Civic-political relates to solving problems in the community through volunteering, engaging with political processes or government offices.
  • Economic describes any activities involving trade, industry or money. Immigration has been shown to stimulate economic growth and contributes to the global gross domestic product (GDP).

Some of the sociocultural contributions of migrants to host communities include increasing food diversity, the creation of new music and sporting achievements. A Honduran migrant opened a restaurant, bringing cuisine from his country of origin to the Mexican culinary scene. A Venezuelan migrant established an orchestra in the Dominican Republic to share his music with the youth of his community. In 2019, Emmanuel Iwe, an 18 year old Nigerian football player signed a contract with Deportivo Saprissa, a Costa Rican football club. These are only a handful of the myriad of stories that make up the multifaceted contributions of migrants.

The extent to which migrants can participate in civic-political activities depends on the policy settings of their host communities, at national, subnational and local levels. The ethnic diversity of the 116th Congress of the United States, in which a historic 16 percent of members were either first- or second-generation migrants, highlights their propensity to civic-political contributions. Diaspora communities also have the potential to engage in political processes in their countries of origin, including by promoting peacebuilding efforts.

In their destination countries, migrants are involved in a multitude of economic activities. Research shows that both low- and high-skilled migrant workers have filled labour shortages thereby facilitating increased productivity in certain sectors. Studies also suggest that migrants are more likely to become entrepreneurs due to their resilience and ‘growth mindset’, developed as a result of overcoming the challenges involved in moving to a new country.

According to the World Migration Report 2020, migrants enhance global innovation in four ways:

  1. Migrants’ higher concentration in economic sectors that tend to be more innovative;
  2. Through patents and as entrepreneurs;
  3. Their greater contribution to business start-ups compared with natives;
  4. By fostering investment, trade and technology linkages.

Migrants also make significant economic contributions to their countries and communities of origin through numerous channels. The most widely recognized is remittances, that is, transfers of money, which are often used to meet the basic needs of families and communities. Diaspora bonds are another key instrument of support. They allow countries to raise necessary funds, such as after disasters, whilst avoiding accumulating debt from expensive lenders. Moreover, migrants also enhance economic development and productivity in their home countries through foreign direct investments and the creation of new businesses.

Whilst many media reports of migrants focus on numbers of arrivals, returns and deportations, it is important to remember the human faces and stories behind these statistics. Migrants play diverse sociocultural, civic-political and economic roles in both their origin and destination countries, as workers, students, entrepreneurs, family members, artists, and much more.

For more information on how to cover migration issues in media, read our 7 recommendations.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities