Towards a Methodology for Defining and Measuring Diaspora: Examples from the Australian-based Chinese Diaspora

A/Prof. Yan Tan3

3University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Data on diaspora is incomplete, inaccurate and inconsistent, with challenges being exacerbated by the ambiguous and evolving concept of diaspora. Diasporas are not typically included in origin countries’ population census or registration, despite the fact that transnational studies recognise their important roles in shaping homeland development. To measure and characterise diaspora populations, countries of origin heavily rely on population records provided by destination countries. This paper brings two concepts that have evolved hand-in-hand – transnationalism and diaspora – to analyse the data on diasporas obtained from destination countries. Based on Australia’s recently integrated census-migration data, and using Australia-based Chinese diaspora as an example, we demonstrate how the linked data can be used to construct the demographic and socio-economic profile of a diaspora population on both permanent and temporary bases, disaggregated by visa and citizenship, and stratified by geographic distribution. The internal mobility of Chinese diaspora is analysed. Nuanced understandings of the magnitude, characteristics and distributions of diaspora populations (Chinese diaspora in this case) provide a robust baseline for designing effective diaspora engagement policies.


Yan Tan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Population at the University of Adelaide. She conducts research in population and environmental studies, with a focus on migration. She has a special interest in the impacts of climate change (or environmental change, broadly defined) on migration.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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