Just the Facts: Official Reports, Mass Media and the Politics of Unauthorized Migration Estimates in the United Kingdom and United States

Jennifer Blakeslee, Australian National University

The production and dissemination of statistical and demographic information has increased significantly in the last decade given advancements in computational power and information access through the Internet. As such, numbers have become even more powerful and political than when The Politics of Numbers (1987) was released two decades ago—for few subjects has this been more apparent that unauthorized migration. Using content analysis of mass media, internet sources, congressional/parliamentary transcripts, and a short survey of demographic professionals working on immigration-related topics, this paper tracks and analyzes estimates of unauthorized migrant populations issued in high profile UK (2004) and US (2005/06) reports and their subsequent effect on political discourse. Rather than assessing the validity of statistical techniques, the paper focuses on the relationship among quantitative information on unauthorized migration, its production, the mass media, and political power in the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Presented in Session 52: Comparative Perspectives on Undocumented Workers