13 April 2013

L is for Laws of Migration

Laws of Migration

E.G. (Ernest George) Ravenstein

E.G. (Ernest George) Ravenstein was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany to a family of cartographers. When he was 18 years old he became a pupil of Dr. August Heinrich Petermann. After moving to England, Ravenstein became a naturalized British Subject and was in the service of the Topographical Department of the British War Office for 20 years (1855–75). A long-serving member of the councils of the Royal Statistical and Royal Geographical Societies, he was also Professor of Geography at Bedford College in 1882–83. He was the first to receive the Victoria gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society (1902) for geographical research.

A geographer by trade, most of Ravenstein’s published works on migration came after his retirement in 1874. While in the employ of the War Office he produced numerous publications and maps primarily dealing with Africa. His statistics and projections were much respected and used as a basis for official planning at the time; he had even predicted that human population would grow beyond the earth's capacity by the mid-20th century (subsequent developments in agriculture and fertilizers have altered the basis of that projection).

He established a theory of human migration in the 1880s that still forms the basis for modern migration theory. It considered the implications of distance and different types of migrant, with women more likely than men to migrate within the country of their birth but less likely than men to leave the country of their birth. His migration research, especially his two papers on the “laws of migration” were very influential on later work dealing with the structure and process of migration. Although his work focused on current migrations Ravenstein had a major impact on migration studies across many disciplines.

Ravenstein's laws immediately created a stir, with some complaining that he had identified patterns of migration, but that this was not the same as discovering "natural laws." Four years, later, he presented another paper that looked at migration patterns elsewhere in Europe and North America, in which he highlighted an exception to migration patterns based upon the American frontier experience. He noted that people are more willing to travel long distances to occupy unsettled land than they would in a country more fully settled, as was the case in the United Kingdom.

Later social scientists would be more kind to Ravenstein's legacy. Some recent reviews of his work credit him with as many as eleven original migration laws. He is generally credited with the origination of distance decay theories of migration and spatial interaction, and later theories expanded on "push" and "pull" factors of migration. Later studies by R. Lawton in the 1950s and 1960s reused Ravenstein's methods but added additional demographic indicators to arrive at refined migration models.

Selected Relevant Works:

RAVENSTEIN, E. G. 1876. The Birthplace of the People and the Laws of Migration.

RAVENSTEIN, E. G. 1885. The Laws of Migration. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 48: pp. 167-235.
RAVENSTEIN, E. G. 1889. The Laws of Migration. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 52: pp. 241-305.

Ravenstein's Laws of Migration

  1. The majority of migrants go only a short distance.
  2. Migration proceeds step by step. There is a process of absorption, whereby people immediately surrounding a rapidly growing town move into it and the gaps they leave are filled by migrants from more distant areas, and so on until the attractive force is spent.
  3. Migrants going long distances generally go by preference to one of the great centres of commerce or industry.
  4. Each current of migration produces a compensating counter-current.
  5. Natives of towns are less migratory than those of rural areas.
  6. Females are more migratory than males within the kingdom of their birth, but males more frequently venture beyond.
  7. Most migrants are adults: families rarely migrate out of their country of birth.
  8. Large towns grow more by migration than by natural increase.
  9. Migration increases in volume as industries and commerce develop and transport improves.
  10. The major direction of migration is from the agricultural areas to the centres of industry and commerce.
  11. The major causes of migration are economic.
Grigg, D B 1977. “E G Ravenstein and the ‘Laws of Migration’” Journal of Historical Geography, 3, pp. 41-51