Age is Fundamental in understanding internal migration - Discuss with reference to academic material.

Age is fundamental in understanding internal migration: discuss with reference to academic material.

Internal migration is the migration of people within a nation's borders; and age is undoubtedly an important factor in understanding the patterns that this can take. However it is the contention of this essay that the economic factors play a more important role in dictating the patterns of internal migration and therefore are vital in understanding them.

The role of age in understanding internal migration cannot be ignored. It can be observed through student migration to university cities, with the office for national statistics stating that 19 was the “peak age for internal migration”, with 23% of 19 year olds changing local authority during 2013 (office for national statistics 2013). This shows that the impact student migration has is significant and therefore must be taken into account if we are going to understand internal migration. The escalator effect (Tony Champion 2011) is a good model for demonstrating this. Where students 'step on' the escalator and and migrate to more affluent areas of a country,for example, the South-East of England in hope of faster career progression often these areas see high rates of internal migration, therefore it is no surprise that in 2013 the area of England with the highest net migration was London, seeing a 52,000 more people entering the city than leaving it (office for national statistics) . The escalator theory is demonstrated well in figure 1. Which shows a clear peak in (internal) migrant numbers for the age of 18/19 where students 'step on' to the escalator. The figure also shows another peak at the age of 21/22, when students will be finishing their degree and so most will migrate again, however notice the peak is lower here, as some students continue to 'ride the escalator' as it were in order to try and achieve faster career progression. The relationship this figure presents between age and internal migration, particularly of internal migration of students is so strong that it shows age must be taken into account when trying to understand internal migration.

Figure 1 – A graph of internal migration against age (office for national statistics)

However figure 1 also points to another (slight) increase in internal migration that is age related, and that is the small rise we see at the age of 65 where, upon retiring, the citizens 'step off' the escalator as there is no longer the need for career progression. And it is important that this is understood in terms of understanding internal migration, for retiree's also contribute largely to the internal migration of countries. As retired citizens often migrate to areas with better health services, or to areas that reflect their changing needs (Jenny Pennington 2013). And this is reflected in the age structures of these areas, Dorset is one such area that attracts many retirees, due to it's idyllic location on the coast and good health service provision. As a result Dorset's age structure has become almost an inverted copy of the UK trend (figure 2). Again showing how age can affect internal migration which again highlights the importance of age in understanding internal migration.

Figure 2 – The age structure of Dorset (blue) against the age structure of the UK (orange) (Dorset for you 2011).

Another area of the graph, which is not included in the escalator model) is the peak in internal migration of people aged between 0 and 7, this is often due to parents moving from within the city to the suburbs, in the hope of achieving a higher quality of life for them to raise their children in. Which results in a rise of internal migration for people of this age, again showing how age can be a factor in determining rates of internal migration.

However the role of economics, in my eyes, a greater role in understanding internal migration, as internal migration is often driven by the search for work – even student migration can be explained to some extent through this. University graduates on average earn £12,000 more than their non graduate counterparts (office for national statistics 2011) and so whilst student migration does have an age basis (18 – 20 usually) the promise of greater affluence later in life as an economic factor cannot be ignored in it's role of driving said migration.

The role of economics can also be observed in England, and to a greater extent in France, during periods of industrialisation. The industrial period saw huge periods of increased affluence for cities, which saw huge periods of urbanisation (a form of internal migration) from rural areas to the urban areas as people sought work. Paris saw it's largest population (2.5 million) during this period, even now it has not reached the same level (2.249 million) (Leslie Page Moch 2011) showing again the importance of economic factors in dictating the patterns of internal migration. Particularly in developing countries such as Ethiopia economic benefit is the “primary motivation for internal migration” (Blessing Uchenna Mberu 2006). Likewise in China under the Maoist regime in the 1960's 24 million people were forced to migrate to the countryside, as too many had urbanised in the hope of finding work, and too little food was being produced to support the population (Sergio B. Gautreaux 2011).

Indeed when the tuition fees rose in 2012, universities saw 54,000 fewer UK students, which had an impact on the internal migration for the UK during that year (Chris Cook 2012). Periods of economic instability and high unemployment have seen this trend of lower rates of internal migration continue). Other factors include the increased rates of home and car ownership, again rising due to a general increased affluence people experience in the modern world. This tends to cause people to be rooted in place, as selling a house that you own is far harder than moving from place to place if you rent (the economist 2014). This coupled with an improved public transport network (again only possible if a country has a strong economy to invest money through) means people no longer have to live where they work, resulting in lower rates of internal migration. This again demonstrates the effect the economy of a country can have on internal migration.

Overall it is clear that there is a relationship between age and internal migration. The escalator effect as a model shows this well and figure one shows a relationship that is simply too strong to ignore. However, whilst these migration patterns may take place at particular ages, it is my view that most of the decisions to migrate have economic reasoning at their core. Students migrate to university in the hope that when they finish they will come out with a higher paying job, 'staying on the escalator' to achieve further career progression is often done in hopes of a higher salary. And the rapid periods of urbanisation that countries undergo during industrialisation are almost entirely based off of people moving to the cities in search of a job, and therefore a wage. Indeed now that countries such as the UK have begun to de-industrialise, and use their affluence to improve infrastructure, such as public transport systems, there has been a reduction in the rates of internal migration as people no longer have to move to where they work. It is just as easy to commute too and from work every day, increased home ownership has exacerbated this (again a result of economic affluence) as people are more reluctant to sell a house and buy a new one resulting in 'frozen assets' , whereas when people rented it was far easier to migrate. This is reflected in the lower internal migration rates in towns that still cling to their industrial roots (The economist 2014). In order to understand internal migration we must understand not just when people migrate, which can be studied through looking at age, but why they migrate, and for me the main reason for this is economic benefit, and for that reason in my opinion whilst age is important in understanding internal migration, the role of economics is fundamental in studying this movement further.

1358 words.


Blessing Uchenna Mberu. (2006). Internal migration and household living conditions in Ethiopia. Demographic Research. 14 (21), 509 - 540.

.Figure 1 - Office For National Statistics. (2012).Internal migration by Local Authorities in England and Wales, year ending 2012.Available:,-40,650,635&tr=0,0&sc=1 Last accessed 5th December 2014.

Figure 2 - last accessed - 8th December 2014.

Jenny Pennington. (2013).Moving on: Migration Trends in later life.Available: Last accessed 5th December 2014

Leslie Page Moch. (2011).Internal Migration before and during the Industrial Revolution: The case of France and Germany.Available: Last accessed 5th December 2014.

Office For National Statistics. (2013).Where do people move to and from?.Available: Last accessed 3rd December 2014. Last accessed 4th December 2014.

Office For National Statistics. (2011).Graduates earn £12,000 a year more than non-graduates.Available: file:///C:/Users/Sam/Downloads/gradearn041_tcm77-236489.pdf. Last accessed 4th December 2014.

The economist. (2014). Not on your bike. Available: Last accessed 3rd December 2014.

Tony Champion. (2008).The 'escalator region' hypothesis and the regional cities of England a research agenda.Available: Last accessed 6th December 2014.

Sergio B Gautreaux. (2013).Understanding China's Internal Migration.Available: 

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