Introduction to Migration Video

Introduction to Migration Video

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Question mark icon
Why do people move?

Thinking icon
While this seems like a simple question, the fact is that there are many complex causes for both individual and large-scale migration, and equally complex effects migration can have.

Words: Migration is Global.
The first thing to remember is that Migration is Global.

Consider this.

Globe icon
In 2013, 232 million people were living outside the country where they were born.

232 million people would form the 5th most populous country in the world.

Brazilian Flag
That’s almost 30 million more people than the population of Brazil.

Immigrants on a boat.
The number of migrants worldwide has doubled since World War II.

United States flag
The United States is the country with the largest population of foreign born residents:


46,000,000 = 14.3%
However, as an overall percentage of the population, that’s a little under 15%

Dubai skyline
Compare that number to 83.7% of the population of the United Arab Emirates, 73.8% of the population of Qatar, and 60% of the population of Kuwait.

Canadian flag
In North America, Canada has a higher percentage of foreign born residents than the United States, at just over 20%.

Europe icon
As a region, Europe hosts the largest overall number of migrants, over 70,000,000 …

Asia icon
… followed closely by Asia.

Question icon
All of this begs the question – why are people moving around?

Social scientists who study population trends are called demographers.

Push and Pull Factors
Demographers talk about the causes of migration in terms of push and pull factors.

Push icon
Push factors are the reasons why people want to leave a particular place – they’re factors that pull them away. 

“What makes someone want to leave the place where they live?”
When talking about push factors, the essential question to ask is: what makes someone want to leave the place where they are currently living?

Pull icon
Pull factors are the reasons why people want to migrate to a particular place. They’re the factors that pull them in.

“What makes a specific place an attractive destination?”
When talking about pull factors, the essential question to ask is: what makes a specific place an attractive destination for migrants?

Multiple choice icon
The important thing to remember is that push and pull factors can work together, or they may be completely separate. The reason that someone decides to leave one place may not have anything to do with their choice of where to go.

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Demographers have grouped the major reasons for migration into four categories:

economic forces

political forces

Social Forces
social forces


environmental forces.

Multiple choice icon
As with push and pull factors, often, more than one of these factors may contribute to a specific instance of migration.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Economic causes of migration
What are the economic causes of migration?

Money icon
Poor economic conditions are one key reason for migration. People tend to move when the economy is poor in order to find employment.

Detroit factory
A recent example where a number of people migrated due to a poor economy is Detroit, Michigan.

Abandoned House
During the recession at the end of the 2000s, whole blocks of the city were abandoned.

Cracked earth
During times of drought in countries that depend on agriculture, urbanization can be the result,

Large city
wherein workers or entire families whose lives used to depend on raising crops of animals move to a large city to try to find work.

Crowded city
At the same time, Overpopulation can also cause migration, this time away from cities.

Rehâb (District of Cairo, Egypt)
In countries with a middle class, or a developing middle class—like Egypt, Brazil, or Thailand—this often leads to the growth of suburbs as families who have the economic means--

Argentine School
--move away from the crowded city centers to find more family friendly areas with better schools and better living conditions.

Political Causes of Migration
Let’s look now at some political causes of migration. 

Refugees on Truck
One of the biggest examples of this is the migration that results whenever there is a war or political instability. 

Jordan refugee camp
Jordan and Kuwait, for example, have large numbers of refugees from Iraq--

Turkey border
--while Turkey and Lebanon each have received many refugees from both the Syrian Civil War and the territorial gains of the group that calls itself the Islamic State.  

Ukraine soldier
Likewise, the Ukraine conflict has seen a number of people move into the Russian-annexed region as well as away from it.

Many refugees expect their situation to be temporary, but sometimes this is not the case. Sixty years after the Korean War, there are still a large number of families split between North and South Korea …

… and fifty years after the communist takeover of Cuba, families remain divided between Cuba and the U.S.


Running icon
Sometimes groups of people migrate to escape persecution on ethnic, political, religious or other groups.

Since 2013, a large number of the ethnic Rohingya Muslims living in the western part of Myanmar have fled persecution by the Buddhist majority. 

Tibetans Marching in India
More than 150,000 Tibetans have fled to India in the past 50 years. 

Pinochet and Kissinger
Likewise, many intellectuals and activists fled military dictatorships in South America between the 1960s and 1980s, as many Arab intellectuals are doing today.

Jail icon
While escaping persecution is well documented, sometimes people migrate to escape prosecution for crimes they have committed.

Some of the most notorious Nazi war criminals fled to South America after World War II where they assumed new identities. Some were eventually caught, others lived out their lives quietly. 

In the era of formal colonialism, migration was often used as punishment for crimes committed to alleviate crowded prisons in the home country.

Georgia plantation
When it was established by the British, the U.S. state of Georgia was partially intended to be an alternative to debtors prisons. The indebted could choose to pay off their debts by working on plantations as indentured servants.

In 1788, the British also established a prison colony at New South Wales, in Australia. Australia’s convict heritage is still a source of much pride for many.

Shackled man.
Historically, peoples were often taken far from their homes against their will as a result of enslavement. 

Slaves working in field
7 million African slaves were brought to the Americas alone as workers in agriculture, manufacturing, shipping, and domestic positions.

Casta painting
This forced migration of Africans has left a rich cultural legacy on food, language, music, and cultural practices that can be easily seen throughout North and South America.

Protest in Brazil
But it has also left deep economic and social scars that have yet to heal.

Hands up
Forced migration is one of the most controversial causes of human movement. In some cases, governments sign agreements to divide territory and mobilize populations, in other cases they do not.

Concentration camp
The large number of Jews forcibly relocated to ghettos and then to concentration camps during World War II is probably one of the most notorious and extreme examples, as it was combined with horrific medical experimentation and wholesale slaughter. 

Armenians in forced march
The shifting of populations around as the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the first decades of the 20th century also resulted in a similar loss of life, as millions of Armenians, Greeks, and Chaldeans were killed or starved to death while on forced marches into exile. 

Trail of tears
The relocation of Native Americans to the Oklahoma Territory that became known as the “Trail of Tears” during the administration of President Andrew Jackson remains one of the most controversial policies in early American history.

US troops in the Zócalo, Mexico City
After the U.S.-Mexican War, when defeated Mexico signed over much of its territory to the U.S., those living in the affected lands had to choose between keeping their Mexican citizenship and keeping their property. In some cases, families split in order to retain both land and citizenship.

Sinai settlement being evacuated
The dismantlement of Israeli settlements in Sinai as part of the Camp David Accords in the early 1980s uprooted many communities who were resettled within Israel proper, many of whom had been living in Sinai since they immigrated to Israel. This happened again when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Social Causes of Migration
Let's look at some social causes of migration.

The most common social cause of migration is reunification with family that has previously migrated. This is often called “chain migration” because it establishes a direct link between two specific locations, a “chain” so to speak, along which new migrants can travel, aided by those who have gone before them.

Mission preacher, New Zealand
Missionary behavior – for reasons both religious and political – can also be considered a form of social migration.

Invasion of Persia by Arab armies (miniature)
Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam all began at specific geographic points at specific dates in history,

Buddhist missionaries
and spread outward through missionary activity, sometimes combined with trade or military conquest.

Map of Buddhist spread
In the case of both Buddhism and Christianity, each now thrives as a major world religion with hundreds of millions of followers …

Map of Christian spread
… but each remains only as a minority faith at its geographic point of origin, while the majority of their adherents live elsewhere.

Che Guevara
Not all missionaries are religious.  Political missions include the migration of key individuals such as Che Guevara, an Argentine who participated in the successful revolution in Cuba and an unsuccessful revolution in Bolivia;

Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin, whose return from Switzerland to Russia during the first World War was a key turning point in the success of the Bolshevik Revolution;

Ayatollah Khomeini
and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose expulsion from Iraq in 1978 at the request of the Shah of Iran turned out to be a mistake on the Shah's part.

Khomeini in France
When Khomeini relocated to France, he was able to use France’s superior communication technology to direct the Shah’s overthrow from there.

Broken Handcuffs
Finally, social causes of migration can include migrations of people to places where they feel more personal freedoms, but not necessarily as the result of formalized persecution.

The Pilgrims
In American history, one of the most famous examples are the Pilgrims. They weren’t forced to leave England or Holland, but came to North America because they wanted to be able to govern their own affairs.

Harlem Renaissance
Another example is the mass migration of many African Americans from southern agricultural lands to major urban centers in the North following the Civil War in order to establish themselves in a part of the country with no recent history of slavery.

Environmental Causes of Migration
Environmental causes of migration are linked to natural disasters, famines, and droughts.

New Orleans flooded
The evacuation of the New Orleans metropolitan area after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 remains one of the biggest natural disasters in recent American history. A decade later, the city has only regained half of its pre-Katrina population.

Haitian Earthquake
The devastation of the Haitian earthquake in 2010 caused a refugee crisis that has not eased yet, with one quarter million people still living in camps five years later.

Medical Tent
An outbreak of cholera that emerged from one of the refugee camps has gone on to become the worst epidemic in the last fifty years, killing over nine thousand people.

Bangkok Flood
The 2011 flood of the Chao Phraya River in Central Thailand had unexpected consequences for both the electronic and automotive industries.

Automotive assembly line
Many of the factories that manufacture batteries for devices such as cell phones, digital cameras, and hybrid cards were located in the affected region, causing industries in Japan, North America, and Europe to slow down operations waiting for the supply flow to resume.

Knowledge icon
Now that we know why people migrate, let’s talk a little bit about what the effects of all of this migration are.

Hijabi women at market in Europe
For those who immigrate themselves, there are many issues relating to resettlement, adaptation, and assimilation into their new home, especially if there is a significant cultural or language difference.

Indian family
Do you decide to adopt the clothing of your new country?  When do you learn the language?

Citizenship ceremony
Do you try to speak it at home?  Do you simplify your name if you find that it’s difficult for others to pronounce?

Asian family
Sometimes, the immigrant generation is seen as “forefeit” or “lost,” having made the sacrifice to give their children a chance at a better life.

Spanglish ad
Their children – and their children’s children – might not speak their ancestral language, or they might not speak it well, resulting in a hybrid language such as “Spanglish.” 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding poster

Differing cultural values might also exist between the immigrant generation and their children born abroad, which has been played out both for laughs and dramatic effect in films from My Big Fat Greek Wedding

.. Ugly Betty…

… or Bend it Like Beckham.

Economic Impact
The economic impact on the host country is one of the most important factors that drives discussions about government policies relating to immigration.

Money icon
The most common complaints about immigration are that 1) immigrants take jobs away from the local population; 2) that they drive down wages; 3) and that they are a burden on the country’s social welfare system.  

Immigration protest
Immigrants are often viewed with suspicion, especially during tough economic times.

Immigrants working in a field
A financial study made during one of the recent economic recessions in the United States demonstrated that, although Americans are losing jobs, recent immigrants who were able to find were rarely taking jobs of the same type or class as the jobs that are being lost. 

Protest on Wall Street
Despite this lack of a correlation between the loss of jobs and the hiring of immigrants, there is still a popular perception that one of the main factors in rising unemployment rates is that immigrants are willing to work for less and are therefore being hired en masse to replace laid-off workers.

Sometimes, however, immigrants have been necessary. In post-World War II Scandinavia, where immigration was encouraged because the population was experiencing negative growth, and migrants were desperately needed to keep the economy growing.

Political Cartoon

Welfare issues are both real and perceived. There is a popular perception that the vast majority of immigrants are on welfare–and that this is one of their primary motives in choosing to come to the United States—a recent study, however, found that although immigrants make up 14% of the population, they account for less than ten percent of welfare expenditures.

“You are not American, don’t fly our flag.”
Social attitudes toward immigrants remain one of the most important outstanding issues.

Anti-Islam protest
Especially since 9/11 in the United States, and 7/7 in the UK, the loyalty of Muslims living in both countries has been questioned and challenged time and again. 

Return to Sender
Likewise, especially in border states, Spanish speakers whose English is poor are often assumed to be illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Racist graffiti in German
One interesting note: although all of these factors apply to the United States, the case study that laid out the framework for this part of the presentation looked at the status of immigrants in Germany and Sweden. Remember: migration is a global phenomenon.


The economic impact of migration is not just limited to the countries that receive them. 

Western Union
People who move abroad often send money relatives back home. These funds are called remittances, and they add up to large sums.

Map of Mexico
The amount of money sent to Mexico each year—$24 billion—is larger than the amount of money generated off of oil and tourism combined.

Remittance Map
Why is this important?  Remittances are not taxed by the home country, and often in countries where there is little trust in the banking system, the money is not put into banks.

Send Money ad from India
Therefore, the government cannot use taxes on this money to improve the services available to people, and this can cause more people migrate because the government is not providing decent services. 

Families left behind
When couples split up due to migration, even though remittances may be coming home, the remaining spouse or parent may be forced to take on unfamiliar responsibilities for which they are unprepared, or that may not be socially acceptable.


Women’s support group, Guatemala
This is particularly the case for young women who are left to run households in male-dominated societies, where they may have difficulty signing contracts, opening bank accounts …

… negotiating mortgages, or advocating for school aged children in the absence of their husbands.

“Brain drain”
When students go abroad for study and advanced degrees …

…  sometimes they choose not to return home because they will never be able to earn as much money there as they would if they remain abroad to work. 

Student group
As many of them study abroad on state-sponsored scholarships, this is an investment in human development not returned.  Nor is this a small problem. 

Arab students
According to the 2002 Arab Human Development Report by the United Nations, fully 51% of Arab youth aspire to go abroad for their higher education and would prefer not to return home afterwards.

Population decrease
48 countries have seen a drop of 15% or more in their populations due to out migration.

Multi National Issues
Many aspects of global migration have effects across national borders.

“No border. No Control.”
One such example are open border policies. For example, the European Union has a free border policy under which any citizen of any EU member state has the right to live and work in any other EU member state. 

Germany – Austria border markers
While these open borders allow people to move in response to economic conditions at home and abroad, they also have a significant impact on social attitudes toward migrants.

Migration protest
In the United States, every so often a politician will suggest an amnesty or a path to legalization for people in the country illegally, which often causes great controversy.

Politcal ad for referendum banning minarets in Switzerland.
The events of 9/11 in the US and 7/7 in the UK, among others, have made governments and people wary of security issues around migration. While the US has spent millions of dollars spent to monitor recent arrivals from Islamic nations and Muslim communities at home,

Time Magazine: The New Face of Terror
a recent analysis of data showed that since 9/11 the vast majority of terrorist actions in the US have been carried out by white men who were born here.

Infogram on the cost of a human girl
Finally, human trafficking is a huge concern for border agencies and national governments around the world. 

Human trafficking has become the second most lucrative trade after drugs
Human trafficking is linked to migration because people pay to be smuggled across borders they don’t have clearance to cross – between Mexico and the US, North Africa and Europe, or Indonesia and Australia, for example.

Woman in alley
On arrival, those who have been trafficked may find themselves in unbearable situations: forced into prostitution, working in sweat shops, or forced to transport drugs in order to pay off their debts.  

These are just a few of the causes and effects of global migrations. Obviously, there are many others that you’ll learn and read about as you continue your study in this unit.