Volume 34 - Article 30 | Pages 845–884

Human capital on the move: Education as a determinant of internal migration in selected INDEPTH surveillance populations in Africa

By Carren Ginsburg, PhD, Philippe Bocquier, Donatien Beguy, Sulaimon Afolabi, Orvalho Augusto, Karim Derra, Frank Odhiambo, Mark Otiende, Abdramane B. Soura, Pascal Zabre, Michael White, Mark Collinson

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Date received:15 Jan 2015
Date published:26 May 2016
Word count:9113
Keywords:education, Health and Demographic Surveillance System, human capital, internal migration, sub-Saharan Africa


Background: Education, as a key indicator of human capital, is considered one of the major determinants of internal migration, with previous studies suggesting that human capital accumulates in urban areas at the expense of rural areas. However, there is fragmentary evidence concerning the educational correlates of internal migration in sub-Saharan Africa.

Objective: The study questions whether more precise measures of migration in Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) populations support the hypothesis that migrants are self-selected on human capital and more educated people are more likely to leave rural areas or enter urban areas within a geographical region.

Methods: Using unique longitudinal data representing approximately 900,000 people living in eight sub-Saharan African HDSS sites that are members of the INDEPTH Network, the paper uses Event History Analysis techniques to examine the relationship between formal educational attainment and in- and out-migration, over the period 2009 to 2011.

Results: Between 7% and 27% of these local populations are moving in or out of the HDSS area over this period. Education is positively associated with both in- and out-migration in the Kenyan HDSS areas; however, the education effect has no clear pattern in the HDSS sites in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, and South Africa.

Conclusions: Empirical results presented in this paper confirm a strong age profile of migration consistent with human capital expectation, yet the results point to variability in the association of education and the propensity to migrate. In particular, the hypothesis of a shift of human capital from rural to urban areas is not universally valid.

Author's Affiliation

Carren Ginsburg, PhD - University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa [Email]
Philippe Bocquier - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]
Donatien Beguy - United Nations Human Settlements (UN Habitat), Kenya [Email]
Sulaimon Afolabi - University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa [Email]
Orvalho Augusto - Centro de Investigação de Saúde de Manhiça (CISM), Mozambique [Email]
Karim Derra - Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Burkina Faso [Email]
Frank Odhiambo - Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Kenya [Email]
Mark Otiende - Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Kenya [Email]
Abdramane B. Soura - Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Burkina Faso [Email]
Pascal Zabre - Centre de Recherche en Santé de Nouna, Burkina Faso [Email]
Michael White - Brown University, United States of America [Email]
Mark Collinson - University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa [Email]

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