Understanding Internal Migration to Urban Areas: Comparison of Urban in-Migration Measures and Estimates based on Censuses and Surveys from the Developing World
The literature on internal migration presents ambivalent measures of migration. The “migration-defining” spatial boundaries and time periods are often inconsistent among data collected in different countries which hinders meaningful cross-national comparisons, as well as among censuses and surveys collected for the same country which prevents consistent urban in-migration estimations useful for urban population estimation and projection. Using over 130 censuses from the IPUMS collection and nearly 200 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for more than 80 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America collected from 1970s to 2015, this paper seeks to compare urban in-migration measures and estimates based on censuses and surveys from the developing world. The preliminary results suggest that surveys tend to provide much more liberal estimates of internal migration rates compared to censuses. Meanwhile, although censuses and surveys often produce different levels of urban in- migration estimates, they constantly show similar patterns of urban in-migration in relation to demographic characteristics such age and gender. Finally, this paper also presents empirical evidence on how different conclusions on educational selectivity of urban in-migrants might be drawn due to varied migration data sources and migration measures used.
Zhen Liu is currently a PhD candidate at Department of Sociology, Brown University. Before coming to Brown, she worked as a research associate at Institute of Demographic Research, City University of New York, and also a fellow of UN Population Council. Zhen Liu's main research interests include internal migration and urbanization in developing countries and also immigrant integration in the United States.