Migration drivers

Last updated on 25 August 2021

Human migration is a global phenomenon. In 2020, about 281 million international migrants and hundreds of millions of internal migrants have changed their place of residence any time in the past (UNDESA, 2021). But why do people migrate in the first place?

Migration research has shown that people are “driven” in multiple ways and are influenced by macro-, meso- and micro-level, and highly contextual factors (see infographic and Table 1 below) that facilitate, enable, constrain, and trigger migration processes in complex ways. Migration drivers shape the parameters and contexts within which people decide whether and where to move, or to stay put. They increase or decrease the salience of migration, the likelihood of certain migration routes, and the attractiveness of different locations. While some migration drivers, such as economic or environmental factors, are often studied in isolation, there is growing acknowledgement that migration is not the outcome of a single factor or a ‘root cause’ but of complex configurations of multiple, interdependent and interacting factors. Analysing such migration driver complexes in detail is important both to understand why people migrate, but also why the majority of people do never migrate.