“Pull” and “Push” Migration Theory

Ravenstein (1885) was the individual who revealed the “Pull” and “Push” Migration theory from one of his popularly known writings revealed as “ law of migration” ( Xiangjing, 2009: 14) which was derived from a study focusing on Britain in the 19th century, with the use of some information such as birth place of the migrants relating to his study. This theory explains the “how” and “why” of migration within a territory or across borders and also the “importance of international migrations” to nation states (Haas, 2008). According to his writing it is impossible to separate development from migration. The seven (7) laws he listed in the study (laws of migration) are;

“(1) Migration depends on distance (2) Migration takes place in stages (3) Every successful migration process is endowed with a migrating pattern flow (4) Most times the natives in their territory have less degree (educational qualifications) than the fellow counterparts (migrants) (5) Gender of the migrants (6) There is a relationship between the level of technology, number of migrants and distance travelled (7) Migration has always been influenced by economic motives.”

According to Haas (2008) other scholars who also made several attempt in applying this theory apart from Ravenstein are; Lee, Donald among others (Haas, 2008: 35, 36). According to Donald the forceful desire for opportunities and improvement of one’s life most times influences and motivates international migration. Generally, when the “Pull” factors at the destination nation-state outweighs the “Push” factors at the individual’s nation state of origin, International Migration often takes place. These “push” and “pull” factors according to Donald is referred to as Negative (Push factors) and Positive (Pull factors).

These “Push” and “Pull” factors (determinants of migration) by most scholars are demographic, economic, environmental, and social in nature. Myrdal and Prothero opines that only “Push” factors are responsible for international migration while others (Sovani, Base, Trewartha) oppose the statement revealing that the combination of “Push” and “Pull” factors are responsible for the migrants decision in leaving his/her territory (Haas, 2008: 40).

According to Lee, “pull” and “push” migration theory are representatives of either a positive migration or negative migration, since migration is provoked by two (2) factors which happen to be “pull” and “push.” Lee also identified some barriers that can hinder International Migration between the two (2) different countries. The barriers he revealed were cultural differences, distance, differences in language communication and most importantly physical border presence. (Haas, 2008: 40). Lee’s contribution reveals why International Migration takes place and secondly why majority of individuals find it difficult to migrate as explained with the barriers that hinders migration. Lee also revealed some hypothesis that explains the “pull” and “push “migration theory. These hypotheses are;

“ (1) The volume of migrants varies in a territory in diverse areas (2) The volume of migration also varies with different migrants (3) Also areas where there is similar characteristics as in the migrants origin (such as; race, ethnicity, traditions, education, income among others) mostly experience less immigration (4) The fluctuation in the displayed pull factors such as; the boom and increase in the economy and the decrease in the economy can also truncate the high increase of immigration bringing it lower than unexpected. (5) Unless the migration (immigration) process are checked and properly managed the migration activity will increase in no time (6) migration population vary in states for example developed countries have more migrants than in less developed states (Haas, 2008: 41).”

Lee cited in Haas (2008) also reveals that;

“(1) Migration is selective. This selection can be positive or negative. It is positive for the wealthy migrant and negative for the opposite individual.

  • Majority migrants who respond to the “pull” factors, they are selective about their destinations since they are not under any pressure to move, they only want to move because of their desire and perceived opportunities out there. (3) Migrants who respond to push factors are negatively seeking to migrate out to another destination. Some of these people influenced by “push” factors are obviously more of the illegal and irregular migrants. There are two (2) types of migrants, the one influenced by the pull factors (influenced by positivity) in the destination nation state and the other influence by the “push” factors (influenced by negativity) at the state of origin (4) How high the degree of “pull” factors (positive views) at the destination nation state determines the increase in difficulty and obstacles faced in getting into the nation-state due to the high immigration policy in those destinations (states) for development, health and security reasons for the state. (5) the most preferred age bracket wanted and mostly welcomed by immigration policies in receiving countries are the young and age working set of individuals, to make up the population of the labour force than aged individuals. (6) The migrants are mostly at the middle of the “pull” factors of the destination nation state and the “push” factors of their nation-state of origin. In all these they are more of complementing the population of the destination states.”

Summarizing Lee’s model and opinion on this theory (“pull” and “push” migration theory), International Migration is influenced by the “Pull” and “Push” factor.

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