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Rural to Urban Migration

Migration is the movement of population from one area to another.  Some migrations are forced, voluntary, permanent and temporary, International and regional. The type of migration that we are principally interested in in this unit is Rural to urban migration, which is the movement of people from countryside to city areas. This type of migration happened in MEDCs from the 18th Century onwards on a large scale, and has gradually slowed down.  In fact in many MEDCs the movement of people has reversed, and people are moving from Urban areas back into the countryside as they search for the quiet life (this is known as counter-urbanisation).

However, in many LEDCs cities are experience massive rural to urban migration, mainly of young males, into the major cities. The major reasons for this movement can be classified into push and pull factors.
A Push factor is something that can force or encourage people to move away from an area. Push factors can include famine (as in Ethiopia in the 1980s), drought, flooding (as in Bangladesh, were people are becoming climate change refugees and having to move to Dhaka, watch an animation of Dhaka's growth here), a lack of employment opportunities, population growth and over population, and civil war (as in Darfur at the moment).
A Pull factor is one in which encourages people to move to an area. Pull factors include the chance of a better job, better access to education and services, a higher standard of living.
These factors have contributed to millions of people in LEDCs moving to cities in LEDCs, creating mass URBANISATION.


Urbanisation is defined as the "proportion of people living in built environments such as towns and cities".  The word proportion in this definition is very important, because it indicates that we must judge urbanisation by looking at both the numbers of people living in both rural AND urban areas. For the first time ever in the history of mankind it is now estimated that more people now live in towns and cities than in rural areas.

Graph showing Urbanisation rates across the world
MEDCs were the first to urbanise, and generally have the largest proportion of their population living in towns and cities.  LEDCs currently have lower rates of urbanisation, but are urbanising rapidly.  Megacities, that is cities with over 10 million people, are almost exclusively in poorer nations.  Cities of World importance for commerce and trade are dominantly in MEDCs, regardless of size.  World cities include Tokyo, London and New York.

The largest cities in the world over time

Find out more
Look at the map above, describe the changing distribution of cities with 5 million inhabitants over time.

Try this exercise on World Rates of Urbanisation or try this slightly easier one

Take a test byte

Match up the key terms on Urbanisation

Watch urban Growth in Baltimore, USA and in Central Valley California

Watch the houses taking over.......

Internet Geography's page on urbanisation

 Push and Pull Factors