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Where the world's migrants go, in one map

Most popular destinations for the world's migrants

Most popular migrant destinations around the world (DMan9797)

This map, put together by Devinn Jani, also known as Reddit user DMan9797uses 2013 United Nations data to show migration flows around the world. The design is simple — each country is labeled with the most popular destination for its migrants. Some destinations are shown with color code: red represents countries whose migrants mostly go to the United States, blue to France, and pink to the United Kingdom.

Just a quick glance tells you that America is the most popular destination for migrants from most of the Western Hemisphere and some surprisingly far-flung nations; it's the top pick for countries as far apart as Iran and Japan, Nigeria and Germany.

There are a few other interesting and surprising things it can tell us, too:

The traffic between Mexico and the US is two-way

The United States is, unsurprisingly, the most frequent destination for Mexican migrants, but the reverse is also true — Mexico is the most popular choice for people leaving the US.

A large share of migrants leaving the US for Mexico will likely be either Mexican nationals or people of Mexican heritage. Mexicans currently account for nearly a third of the foreign-born citizens residing in the US, but in the 2000s the huge wave of migration that brought millions across the border during the 20th century began to reverse.

A big factor in this was the economic recession in the United States. This brought a sharp drop in demand for low-skilled labor, especially in construction — a key source of work for unauthorized Mexican migrants — as the housing market crashed. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans are also deported from the US every year.

Many migrants have also headed back to Mexico for personal reasons: a survey by the nonprofit Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together found family reasons and nostalgia were cited as top reasons for the return trip.

The legacy of European colonialism shows here

France noticeably remains the most popular destination for several French-speaking former colonies in Africa, marked in dark blue, such as Algeria, Senegal, and Cameroon.

The same is less true for former British colonies: while the United Kingdom is still the favored new home of South Africans, Australians, and Kenyans, it's no longer the choice of migrants from India — the former jewel in the crown of the British Empire — or from neighboring Pakistan.

Things have changed since the years after World War II, when hundreds of thousands of colonial workers from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean moved to the UK. The legacy of that mass movement of people can still be seen in the UK's multicultural makeup today.

Regional economic powerhouses attract migrants

Check out the cluster of gray countries around Germany, light blue around Argentina, dark green above South Africa, and the splash of orange on India's borders. Strong economies have always been a pull for migrants seeking a better life, but the blocks of color around regional economies say a lot about where the opportunities are today (or were in 2013, anyway).

One striking thing is that China does not appear to be ringed by migrants rushing to take advantage of opportunities in the world's second-largest economy. Language barriers and lack of freedoms under Communist rule could both come into play here, though China is slowly becoming more popular as a destination for workers from South Korea, the US, and Japan.

It's also important to bear in mind that this map is based on official statistics — it will not account for the tens of thousands of unauthorized migrant workers reportedly smuggled into China from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries every year.

Rich Gulf states: a hub for migrant labor

Fifty years ago, migrants from India and Pakistan might have looked to their British former colonial overlord in their search for work.

These days, South Asian laborers are much more likely to head to the Gulf: the map shows most Indians go to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistanis to Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich Gulf has become a key destination for temporary migrant laborers, many of whom find work in construction or low-paid services, or as domestic workers. Rights abuses against such migrants — many of whom are working to send money back home to desperately poor families — are well documented.