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City to city migration and its impacts on urban systems
Migration and Cities


Migration is one of the main drivers of urbanisation, industrialisation and economic development. With the fast population growth in regions of the world, such as Africa and South Asia, migration will become an even more relevant topic in the public agendas of governments and institutions.

Yet, whilst migration has impacts at city, regional and global scale, many are not well known, including factors at the origin and destination, migration paths, the population profile of migrants and the collective pattern which emerge from millions of people moving. Detecting stable patterns of migration means being able to forecast them, to detect any structural changes and to construct and simulate different scenarios in terms of policies and other factors related to migration.


In this project, we try to address migration from a variety of angles, including the emergent patterns of people moving between cities and the economic attributes of a person deciding to move.

Our research questions will look at

  1. How does migration affect the size of cities and the distribution of the population of a country? Does migration between cities dictate the distribution of individuals in large urban areas, medium-sized cities and small towns?
  2. How is the impact of different drivers of migration related to fear of conflict, violence and risk?
  3. How concentrated is migration? What percentage of the population of a country will move? How many times will a person move?
  4. What is the impact of migration on the ability of a city to increase its skill base and move into new complex economic activities? Are firms in complex sectors who hire migrants more likely to succeed?

Due to the variety of the problems we analyse and data availability, cities in China, Colombia and across West Africa will be considered and different types of migration data will be used in the analysis.

Together with our PKU partners and using census data from China, we will detect internal migration patterns in Chinese cities, capturing a nonlinear impact on city size and feedbacks between migration and city size. With EAFIT partners, we will model internal migration in Colombia, detecting patterns of repeat and return migrants, and the impact of migration on the economic complexity of cities. Finally, with partners from the OECD and the University of Florida, using data on armed and conflict events and also data on Africa’s urbanisation, we will look at the mobility of terrorist groups and the migration induced due to violence (and fear of violence) in the region.

This project is interested in Prediction and Projection of migration trends, and also detecting the Emergent patterns of cities and their growth related to migration.