Push-Pull Factors

The push-pull concept is a theory that attempts to identify the motivational factors that drive migration. A push factor "pushes" individuals or groups to migrate away from their location, while a pull factor "pulls" migrants to a new location.

The push-pull concept was introduced by Everett Lee in his article, "A Theory of Migration," first published in 1966. In the article, Lee attempted to codify the various factors that might influence a potential migrant to consider relocating. Lee sought to address the causation of migration. He divided the pressures to migrate into two broad categories: those that would "push" an individual or group to migrate, and those that would "pull" migrants to a new place. Lee argues that these factors, working either alone or in concert, and at various levels of intensity, are responsible for inducing the movement of human beings across space.


"Push" factors are negative aspects of remaining in the home country; conditions a migrant will seek to avoid and often flee from. Common reasons behind the "push" to migrate include:

  • such life-threatening situations as famine, threats to one's life, and natural hazards and disasters
  • matters of personal life choices, such as finding a suitable spouse
  • seeking better economic opportunities, such as finding a higher-paying job

Other push factors are:

  • poor quality of life, especially low standards of housing and medical care
  • loss of farming opportunities due to desertification (indeed a major cause of migration in the Sahel region of Africa)
  • actual or feared religious and political persecution

Any of these causes—and many other causes—are sufficient to convince an individual or group to move. However, the difficulties of moving great distances may prevent migration until conditions in a home country become intolerable.

Push factors by themselves can drive a migration, but pull factors also usually play a role in the decision to migrate. These are positive aspects of the destination location, whether it is a foreign country or territory, or another place in the country of origin. Pull factors include:

  • better living conditions
  • better health care or treatments unavailable in the home country
  • political or religious freedom
  • greater opportunities of marrying

Pull factors therefore frequently complement push factors. Some pull factors are related more to amenities; for example, moving to a region that has a more comfortable climate or beautiful scenery (a common factor in the migration of retirees in developed countries). Although rather general, the push-pull concept provides insight into why migration occurs.

Reuel R. Hanks
Reuel R. Hanks is professor of geography at Oklahoma State University and serves as the editor of the Journal of Central Asian Studies. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Kansas and has taught geography at the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas, Kennesaw State University, and Oklahoma State University. He has been a visiting professor at Tashkent State Economics University, Samarkand State Institute for Foreign Languages, KIMEP (Almaty, Kazakhstan), and Eurasian National University (Astana, Kazakhstan). Dr. Hanks was a Fulbright Scholar in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1995 and has published more than 20 articles and book chapters on geography and Central Asia. He is the author of the Encyclopedia of Geography Terms, Themes, and Concepts (ABC-CLIO, 2011), Central Asia: A Global Studies Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 2005), and Global Security Watch: Central Asia (Praeger, 2010).
MLA Citation

Hanks, Reuel R. "Push-Pull Factors." ABC-CLIO Solutions, ABC-CLIO, 2021, educatorsupport.abc-clio.com/TopicCenter/Display/2219916?productId=5. Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.

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