Understanding Internal Migration to Urban Areas: Evidence from Censuses and Surveys from the Developing World

Zhen Liu, Brown University
Deborah L. Balk, CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR)
Mark R. Montgomery, Population Council

The literature on internal migration to cities and towns is marked by ambiguous and even misleading measures of migration. The “migration-defining” spatial boundaries and time periods often vary not only among countries but also between censuses and surveys for the same country, which hinders consistent estimation. Using 136 census microsamples and 189 Demographic and Health Surveys from developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, this papers compares a range of measures of internal urban in-migration. The results show that in general, surveys tend to produce higher estimates of migration than censuses. This paper also attempts to present an overview of what censuses and surveys each can contribute to studies of urban in-migration,by drawing evidence from censuses and DHS to clarify puzzles in literature regarding whether the majority of urban in-migrants are from rural areas in developing countries, as well as whether most urban female in-migrants go into domestic work.

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Presented in Session 205: Migration Data and Estimation