Migration Theories


Migration is defined as the permanent change of residence of a person or group; it is a natural social phenomenon. The reasons for migration depend on the push and pull factors. However, we will be focusing on two theories of migration and their major advocates/theorists and their principles outlined.


The two theories of focus are; Ravenstein’s Laws of Migration and Stouffer’s Theory of Mobility.

E.G. Ravenstein created his theory in the year 1885, he developed this theory by using the birthplace data and developed a set of characteristics such as:

  • Most migrants travel short distances.
  • Rural people are more likely to migrate than urban people.
  • Long-distance migrants are most likely to move to cities.
  • Long-distance migrants are more likely to be men
  • When a migrant leaves, a "gap" is created, and then filled by another migrant (counter-migration)


  • There is an inverse relation between distance and volume of migration. Majority of migrants moves to short distance only. Migrants going long distance generally go by preference to the large centres of commerce and industry.
  • Migration proceeds step by step. The inhabitants of countryside flock into the nearby rapidly growing town. The gap created by this out-migration in the countryside is filled up by in-migration from still remoter countryside. The inhab­itants of the town then move to the nearby urban centre up in the hierarchy.
  • Every migration current produces a counter-current.
  • The native of the rural areas are more mobile than their counterpart in the urban areas, and the major direction of migration is from agricultural areas to the centres of industry and commerce.
  • Females are more mobile than male in the country of birth, but male more frequently venture beyond.
  • Migration is highly age selective where adults in the working age groups display a greater propensity to migrate.
  • Volume of migration increases with the process of diversifi­cation of the economy, and improvement in transport facilities.
  • Migration occurs mainly due to economic reasons.


S.A. Stouffer proposed his Intervening opportunities model in 1940 which claims that there is no necessary relationship between mobility and distance. Stouffer's theory suggests that:

  • The number of persons going a given distance is directly proportional to the number of opportunities at that distance.
  • Inversely proportional to the number of intervening opportunities between the origin and the destination.


Ravenstein’s Laws of Migration        

Ravenstein's Laws of Migration - humangeo123Ravenstein's 'laws' of Migration

Stouffer’s Theory of Mobility

GENERAL THEORIES OF GEOORAPHIC MOBILITYTheory of intervening opportunities by Stouffer ~ Target UPSC and UP PCS



This WebQuest was completed in order to discuss two migration theories; Ravenstein’s Laws of Migration and Stouffer’s Theory of Mobility. Ravenstein's theory is based on the fact that movement is based on the distance and its opportunities while Stouffer's Theory states that there is no necessary relationship between mobility and distance.


4 General Theories of Migration – Explained! (yourarticlelibrary.com)