Volume 35 - Article 34 | Pages 1011–1044

Determinants of rural out-migration in Ethiopia: Who stays and who goes?

By Atsede Desta Tegegne, Marianne Penker

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Date received:23 Dec 2015
Date published:06 Oct 2016
Word count:8132
Keywords:binary logistic regression, determinants, household interviews, livelihood zones, long-term migration, short-term migration


Background: Rural out-migration is a common phenomenon in Ethiopia. Several studies explain migration as the outcome of an individual utility-maximizing decision. This perspective ignores the diversity of migration types and inadequately explains migration in the wider context of mutual and interdependent risk-sharing strategies of household members in response to locational advantages and disadvantages.

Objective: The main objective of this study is to examine households' choice of short-term and long-term migration and its underlying determinants in different locational contexts.

Methods: Based on the household-centred New Economics Labour Migration (NELM) framework, we conducted quasi-longitudinal and context-specific structured interviews with 553 randomly selected households in four rural study sites in north-west Ethiopia. The determinants of household migration decisions on the one hand and the variables explaining decisions for short-term and long-term migration were analysed in a binary logistic regression and a multinomial logistic regression.

Results: The results show a positive relation between migration decisions and household variables such as a higher education status, perceived food insufficiency, female household heads, household-head age, household size, and number of economic activities. Beyond the NELM framework, location in different livelihood zones is also significant in diverging migration strategies. Short-term migration is very much driven by locational advantages and food insufficiency. The propensity for long-term migration significantly increases for households with a higher educational level, but declines with a rising number of dependent household members.

Contribution: We contribute to the discussion of ambiguous determinants of migration and provide more differentiated insight into short-term and long-term migration decisions. Besides strong support for the NELM framework, we highlight the relevance of education for long-term migration and locational meso-level factors for short-term migration.

Author's Affiliation

Atsede Desta Tegegne - Universität für Bodenkultur Wien (BOKU), Austria [Email]
Marianne Penker - Universität für Bodenkultur Wien (BOKU), Austria [Email]

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