Volume 48 - Article 24 | Pages 681–732 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

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

By Philippe Bocquier, Ashira Menashe-Oren, Wanli Nie

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Date received:27 Jul 2022
Date published:09 May 2023
Word count:7003
Keywords:migration, population growth, urbanization
Additional files:readme.48-24 (text file, 3 kB)
 demographic-research.48-24 (zip file, 634 kB)


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

Philippe Bocquier - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]
Ashira Menashe-Oren - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]
Wanli Nie - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]

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