The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) database

The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) database logo


Chief Investigators:

Sydney University: Dr Anna Boucher, Department of Government and International Relations; Professor Mary Crock, Professor of Public Law, Faculty of Law.

Harvard University: Professor Michael Hiscox (Government); Dr Justin Gest (Government); Dr Suzanna Challen (Government) 

London School of Economics and Political Science: Dr Patrick McGovern (Sociology) and Dr Eiko Thielemann (Government)

Luxembourg University: Professor Michel Beine (Economics); Professor Hillel Rapoport.

Amsterdam University: Associate Professor Brian Burgoon (Politics)

Social Science Research Centre Berlin: Dr Marc Helbling.


Project funding for Australia:

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship is providing linkage funding for this project, which is currently the subject of an Australian Research Council Linkage grant application. The University of Sydney Faculty of Law and the Institute for Social Sciences has previously provided seed funding for the project. The University of Sydney IT section has provided funding to set up a cloud-based platform to manage the database.

Harvard University, the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, the Academy of Social Sciences Australia and the School of Social and Political Science funded a one day conference on the database “Fault-lines of Immigration Policy: The Harvard Sydney Immigration Summit” in July 2012.


Project description:

Governments adopt a wide variety of approaches to regulating immigration. They give different meanings to basic concepts such as citizenship and residency, and place different importance on occupational skills, family reunification, and cultural and ethnic diversity when selecting immigrants. But it is impossible at the moment to say much more than that about alternative approaches to immigration policy. There are no comprehensive, cross-nationally comparable data on immigration policies and no systematic method for classifying, measuring, and comparing immigration policies across countries and over time.

The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) Database will address this problem directly by providing a new set of data on immigration policies that should be of immense value to researchers in a wide variety of academic disciplines. The IMPALA Database is a collaborative project, bringing together social science and legal researchers from Harvard University, the University of Luxembourg, the University of Amsterdam, the London School of Economics, the University of Sydney and the Social Science Research Centre Berlin.

The IMPALA research team is currently gathering comparable data on immigration law and policy in over 25 countries of immigration between 1960 and 2010. We examine all major categories of immigration law and policy, covering the acquisition of citizenship, economic migration, family reunification, permanent immigration, temporary migration, asylum and refugee protection, and policies relating to undocumented migration and border control. We will also examine policies relating to the integration of immigrants into the host country, including government programs providing medical insurance, cash benefits, housing assistance, employment assistance, job skill and language training, and civics courses.

By creating a comprehensive, cross-nationally comparable database on immigration laws and policies, the project will make it possible for scholars to evaluate the effects of different approaches to managing immigration and thereby make critical contributions to ongoing debates and policy decisions. We anticipate that it will be useful to economists interested in explaining immigration flows and their economic effects, to sociologists examining the social and cultural consequences of immigration, to political scientists interested in explaining immigration policies and the political impact of immigration, and to legal scholars studying the rights granted to immigrants and refugees in different countries.


Outputs to date:


Crock, M & Ghezelbash, D, 'Do Loose Lips Bring Ships? The Role of Policy, Politics and Human Rights in Managing Unauthorised Boat Arrivals' (2010) 19(2) Griffith Law Review 238-287.

Comparing migration, naturalisation and asylum policies: The International Migration Law and Policy Analysis Database (IMPALA). IMPALA launch article, presented at the European Consortium of Political Research conference in August 2011.  Currently being revised by Boucher, Gest and Helbling for submission.

Immigration policy and its Impact: A comparative study with a focus on Spain, LSE Migration Studies Unit and ICCS, Madrid, 2010 [Thielemann, E., Boucher, A. Mahía, R., Armstrong, C.,  Bovens, L., Gest, J.,  Arce, R., Lorca, A., Lores, N. and McGovern, P. Summary of preliminary Spanish coding].

Presentations, panels and conferences

The IMPALA database: Methodological Challenges, IMPALA panel, International Studies Association Conference, San Diego, April 2012 [entire panel, five papers to be presented]. 

Comparing migration, naturalisation and asylum policies: The International Migration Law and Policy Analysis Database (IMPALA), European Consortium of Political Research General Conference, Reykjavik, 25-27 August 2011 [paper presented by Boucher].

Fault-lines of Immigration Policy: The Harvard Sydney Immigration Summit, 22 July 2011 (co-hosted by the University of Sydney, the United States Studies Centre and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences) [IMPALA papers presented by Crock, Thielemann and Beine].

The IMPALA database, IMPALA Panel, Norface Conference for Economists, organised by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, London, April 2011 [IMPALA papers presented by Thielemann, Beine and Hiscox].

London School of Economics and Political Science Methods Workshop, Challenges and Opportunities for Comparative Migration Research, London, 10 June 2010 [IMPALA papers presented by Boucher, Beine, Burgoon and Thielemann].


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