Research on rural-to-urban migration in LDCs: The confusion frontier and why we should pause to rethink afresh

Oded Stark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over 12 years of intensive research in the field of rural-to-urban migration have left the field beset with loss of direction and some serious doubts as to: (1) whether research has really provided practitioners with more specific means of intervention; (2) proper understanding of such intervention, its justification and results; (3) the areas in which the marginal benefit of extra research amounts to zero; (4) those areas in which some consensus has emerged; (5) which problem areas and specific issues merit intensive migration research in the coming years; and (6) whether or not the academic profession has based its migration research effort in the past decade on an inappropriate set of presuppositions or, even worse, on invalid postulates. A few examples of confusion and/or fallacies that render this list more concrete are presented in this paper. These are drawn from the areas of migration and fertility; migration and education; migration and the distribution of income by size; migration and urban unemployment; migration and the politics of economics; migration and policy measures. This paper, then, makes a plea for a major re-evaluation which could and should provide a turning point in academic work and institutional thought. The emphasis is on reformulation of the policy-related presumptions on which research has been based for the past dozen years. Rather than trying to reach a better understanding of the decision-making process generating rural-to-urban migration and its sectoral and overall social implications so as to devise more effective measures to contain/reverse it, the starting point should be an effort to effectively manipulate the phenomenon so as to turn it into a vehicle of national development and personal betterment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalWorld Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1982


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