Push or Pull Factors in Migration

Updated July 18, 2017

Developed by theoriest Ernest Ravenstein, the "push and pull" concept is used to explain migration causes. Push factors are conditions within a country that push people out, while pull factors are conditions within another country that pull people from their homeland. Political, economic, environmental and personal situations create push and pull migration factors.


Migrants seeking asylum in another country often do so due to political instability in their homeland. Civil war, religious persecution and corrupt dictatorships are political push factors that can influence migration. Political factors within another country that can pull people out of their homeland include a stable government, religious or cultural tolerance and democratic political systems.


With half of the world's migrants leaving home to find better jobs, economic opportunities are the leading cause of global migration. An abundance of low-wage labour and employment opportunities in developed countries pull, while an increasing jobless rate in third-world countries pushes millions of migrants into foreign work forces each year. Migrants can also earn more in developed countries for the same work they did in their native country. Union protection, welfare benefits and job protection can also influence a person's decision to migrate.


Natural disasters are one of the main causes of migration. In the event of a natural disaster, people are pushed from their homeland due to residential damage, lack of food and water supplies and unsafe conditions. Pull factors include emergency shelters, available food and water and medical aid. Other environmental push factors include famine, loss of farmland and primitive living conditions.


Each year, increasing numbers of young people are migrating to developed countries for academic opportunities. In areas where higher education is limited, college is an especially common pull factor for many migrants. Family ties can be another personal migration factor, pulling people from their homeland to reunite with relatives. Low standards of living in a person's homeland are another common push factor, while personal preference for a certain location can pull and influence migration.

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About the Author

Rachel Gussin began writing professionally in 2010. She contributes to, with expertise in health, nutrition and fitness. Gussin earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and writing from Southern Oregon University.