Tribute to Matthieu Solignac

20 December 2020

Matthieu had been an INED colleague, in various roles, for almost 15 years and was currently an associate researcher to INED’s Economic Demography research unit.

In 2006-2007, as a second year Ensae student, Matthieu became fascinated by demography thanks to Laurent Toulemon’s classes. He first arrived at INED in the summer of 2007 as an intern in the Economic Demography unit. Supervised by Ariane Pailhé and Anne Solaz, he contributed to some of the first analyses of the Families and Employers survey, analyzing private companies’ work-life balance policies. His dissertation was of such high quality that it was published as an INED working paper, a rare occurrence for a dissertation. Already from this first internship, Matthieu forged strong, enduring links with INED.

Matthieu’s remarkable scientific career was notable for being interdisciplinary and international. In 2008, as an Ensae graduate with a master’s degree in economics, he began a doctorate at INED and the Paris School of Economics, under the supervision of Laurent Gobillon. The same year, in 2008-2009, he further developed his demographic training at the European Doctoral School of Demography (EDSD). In December 2013, he defended his doctoral thesis in economics, titled "Mobility in Motion: Essays on Transport, Mobility and Spatial Disparities".

Matthieu’s research is at the crossroads of several disciplines, borrowing from both demography and economics. His work shed light on a dimension often ignored by the migration literature: the emigration of immigrants. He contributed to the measurement and understanding of this phenomenon in France (Solignac, 2018), and has shown that taking return emigration into account can help understand differences between the native and migrant population in the host country, whether in terms of their access to property (Gobillon and Solignac, 2020) or to understand health disparities (Guillot et al., 2018). Matthieu was also interested in the spatial dynamics of inequalities, studying in particular how the local unemployment rate affects young people’s entry into the labour market (Solignac and Tô, 2018). His research hass been internationally recognized by his peers , as well as by the media and press.

Matthieu did not just study migration, but had also himself moved nationally and internationally across many scientific environments to further his research. He was the first French student of the European Doctoral School of Demography. After spending the first three years of his PhD at INED, he joined the Aix Marseille School of Economics for his fourth year. He then took up a first postdoctoral post from 2012 to 2015 at the Economics Department of Sciences Po, and a second one at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States between 2015 and 2017, as part of a project on the mortality of immigrants in France, coordinated by Michel Guillot. His US years were a happy period in his life. He had integrated very well in the department, had built a network of friends among the doctoral and post-doctoral students, and was an active participant in various scientific events and seminars. It was at Penn that Matthieu met his future wife, Dasha, whom he married shortly before his return to France. During an interview, Matthieu spoke with pleasure about his experience at Penn and the many professional and personal relationships he had developed there. The quality and originality of his scientific career was remarked upon his return to France. He was awarded the Labex iPOPs Chair of Excellence, based at the University of Bordeaux, INED and the Aquitaine Regional Council. In 2019, he was appointed as a tenured lecturer at the University of Bordeaux.

Disseminating research findings widely was important to Matthieu and he was always keen to take part in activities aimed at opening up scientific research to a general public, such as the annual Science Festival. He communicated through social networks, where he shared demographic papers and findings. He actively contributed to the creation of the magazine “Regards croisés sur l’économie”, of which he was a member of the editorial board from 2007 to 2012. The journal aims to bridge the gap between academic research and the public debate by reporting on the latest advances in social sciences and their concrete implications for public policy.

Just as shown by his passion for basketball, Matthieu was as a team player. He was committed to supporting his colleagues. A great teacher, he was always ready to help and to bring his constructive contribution to his colleagues’ work. He was  cultured man, yet he remained humble, simple, welcoming, and open to discussing a variety of subjects. Above all, Matthieu was a lovely, altruistic man. A fine gourmet, proud of his region of origin, he loved to introduce others to regional specialties. Matthieu was above all a wonderful colleague and friend. We already miss him.

Selected bibliography

Gobillon L., Solignac M. (2020), Homeownership of Immigrants in France: selection effects related to international migration flows, Journal of Economic Geography, 20(2), pp.355–396

Solignac M. (2018), L’émigration des immigrés, une dimension oubliée de la mobilité géographique, Population, 73 (4), pp.693-718 / Immigrant Emigration: An Overlooked Dimension of Geographical Mobility, Population (English Edition), 73(4), pp.659-684

Solignac M., Tô M. (2018), Do Workers Make Good Neighbours? The Impact of Local Employment on Young Male and Female Entrants to the Labour Market, Annals of Economics and Statistics, n°130, pp. 167-198. Open repository version

Guillot M., Khlat M., Elo I., Solignac M., Wallace M. (2018), Understanding Age Variations in the Migrant Mortality Advantage: An International Comparative Perspective, PLOS ONE 13(6): e0199669

Solignac M. & Tô M. (2016),Le niveau de chômage dans le voisinage affecte-t-il l’entrée sur le marché du travail ?, Revue Economique, n°3, vol.67, p.495-524. English full text article available on Cairn international. Media coverage (in French): Les Echos(Aug. 13, 2017).


Matthieu Solignac personnal website