Volume 48 - Article 24 | Pages 681–732  

Migration’s contribution to the urban transition: Direct census estimates from Africa and Asia

By Philippe Bocquier, Ashira Menashe-Oren, Wanli Nie


Background: The components of urbanisation are important to understand, since urbanisation is closely related to development. Internal migration was key in historical urban transitions, while in contemporary transitions the balance of births and deaths has been the main driver of urbanisation. Reclassification of rural areas and international migration also contribute to urbanisation.

Objective: Unlike previous work based on indirectly measured net migration estimates, we directly estimate in- and out-migration rates between rural and urban areas across Africa and Asia by age and sex, and evaluate the contribution of the balance of these flows to urbanisation.

Methods: We use 67 census samples from IPUMS International for 28 countries in Africa and Asia between 1970 and 2014 to estimate in- and out- migration between rural and urban areas, based on available questions of residence. We then model age- and sex-specific migration rates using Poisson regression and estimate net migration through marginal effects.

Results: Results confirm that, in both continents, urbanisation is not generated by rural-to-urban migration but by the urban population itself, be it through natural growth or through expansion to peripheral areas. In Asia, urbanisation reflects internal migration trends and reclassification decisions to a greater extent than in Africa, where natural growth is the key contributor.

Conclusions: In Asia, urbanisation reflects internal migration trends and reclassification decisions to a greater extent than in Africa where natural growth is the key contributor.

Contribution: By using direct estimates, we ascertain the role of inter-regional rural–urban migration in urbanisation. We find that a positive effect of inter-regional migration is counter-balanced by a negative effect of intra-regional migration (combined with reclassification and international migration).

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

The dynamic role of household structure on under-5 mortality in southern and eastern sub-Saharan Africa
Volume 49 - Article 11

Multiple (il)legal pathways: The diversity of immigrants' legal trajectories in Belgium
Volume 47 - Article 10

Demographic change and increasing late singlehood in East Asia, 2010–2050
Volume 43 - Article 46

The effect of spousal separation and reunification on fertility: Chinese internal and international migration
Volume 43 - Article 29

Migrant-based youth bulges and social conflict in urban sub-Saharan Africa
Volume 42 - Article 3

Urban–rural disparities in adult mortality in sub-Saharan Africa
Volume 39 - Article 5

A regional perspective on the economic determinants of urban transition in 19th-century France
Volume 38 - Article 50

Human capital on the move: Education as a determinant of internal migration in selected INDEPTH surveillance populations in Africa
Volume 34 - Article 30

Which transition comes first? Urban and demographic transitions in Belgium and Sweden
Volume 33 - Article 48

Circular migration patterns and determinants in Nairobi slum settlements
Volume 23 - Article 20

World Urbanization Prospects: an alternative to the UN model of projection compatible with the mobility transition theory
Volume 12 - Article 9

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Migration, daily commuting, or second residence? The role of location-specific capital and distance to workplace in regional mobility decisions
Volume 50 - Article 33    | Keywords: commuting, location-specific capital, migration, multilocality, regional mobility, second residence, Sozio-oekonomisches Panel (SOEP), spatial mobility

Fertility decline, changes in age structure, and the potential for demographic dividends: A global analysis
Volume 50 - Article 9    | Keywords: age structure, demographic dividend, demographic transition, fertility, migration, population momentum, working-age population

War and mobility: Using Yandex web searches to characterize intentions to leave Russia after its invasion of Ukraine
Volume 50 - Article 8    | Keywords: Brain drain, migration, Russia, search trends, Ukraine, Yandex

How do environmental stressors influence migration? A meta-regression analysis of environmental migration literature
Volume 50 - Article 2    | Keywords: environmental, instrumental variables, meta analysis, migration, partial correlation coefficient, weighted regression

Culture portability from origin to destination country: The gender division of domestic work among migrants in Italy
Volume 47 - Article 20    | Keywords: childcare, culture, epidemiology, gender, housework, migration