Pull Factors of Migration

Think of a place you'd like to go. Why would you like to go there? Is it fun, is it relaxing, or do you have some special memories attached to it? These are factors that would pull you towards that place. When we talk about pull factors of migration, we are discussing something similar, although on a much broader scale.

Get started Sign up for free
Pull Factors of Migration Pull Factors of Migration

Create learning materials about Pull Factors of Migration with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Table of contents

    Pull Factors of Migration Definition

    Pull factors can be anything that would make a specific place desirable to move to: strong economy, plenty of job opportunities, access to education, a safe, tolerant, and welcoming culture, natural beauty, a free, fair uncorrupt society where everyone has a voice, and strong institutions that protect personal rights and businesses. These can all be pull factors that draw a person to a place in the hope of a better life than what they came from.

    Pull Factor: something that makes a person want to migrate to a specific country or location.

    We can see this as people go from less developed to more developed countries or moving from rural to urban areas.

    Hint: check out our explanation on Push Factors of Migration.

    Push vs. Pull Factors of Migration

    Push factors and pull factors can usually be seen in any migrant situation. A push factor pushes someone away from a place, while a pull factor attracts them to a place. It can almost be said that they are two sides of the same coin. for example, if someone is leaving a place due to a conflict, a pull factor of where they are headed would likely be a safer, more stable, and more peaceful place.

    Every place usually has some pull factors and some push factors, as no place is perfect. However, there are places that migration patterns show are more desirable to live in than others. Many of the migration crises you may hear about usually involve a big event or conflict that cause many people to leave their homes in search of somewhere new.

    Although these are often big news stories as there are typically huge numbers of people moving in a very short timeframe, migration usually happens in less spectacular and newsworthy fashion. Every day people are pulled to countries or places they believe will give them and their children a better life than they had, perhaps where they are able to make more money relative to their cost of living and send part of their salary back home as remittances. It might be because they want their children to go to good schools and universities that will open up possibilities that they would not have where they are.

    Forced migration can be subjected to pull factors, as someone involved in human trafficking might take people against their will to the places they'd benefit the traffickers the most.

    Environmental Pull Factors

    Environmental pull factors include moving to places with a more favorable climate, natural beauty, lower risk of natural disasters, and less risk from floods, droughts, or climate change, but often a significant environmental pull factor is living in a city as opposed to a rural area. The work opportunities, access to more goods and services, and potential for a higher quality of life make cities highly desirable.

    Political Pull Factors

    Political pull factors include having more rights and liberties in a country, access to good health and social services, and good education. Having laws in a country that protect freedom of religion and prevent discrimination based on race or sexual orientation can also be pull factors.

    What about having more rights and protection to start a business? In the country a person emigrates from, there might be a lot of corruption or discrimination that are barriers to starting a business, buying property, or daily operation. Pull factors in the country they immigrate to could include strong and stable institutions and more business-friendly practices, where there aren't officials to pay off or discrimination to navigate in order to grow and operate. This can incentivize entrepreneurship and business growth that can stimulate an economy's growth, making the destination country even more desirable.

    Safety and access to good education are major pull factors that cause people to move to a specific place. A stable society that can allow families to grow and kids to grow up educated is something that is easily taken for granted, but for hundreds of millions of people in the world, this is a big reason they relocate to new countries in order to give their kids this opportunity.

    Pull Factors in Migration Flows of Migration StudySmarter

    Fig. 1 - Flows of Migration: Positive (blue) = more migrants come in than leave; Neutral (green) = around the same come in as leave; Negative (orange) = more migrants leave than come in.

    Social Pull Factors

    Despite having political protections, many still suffer from social oppression due to cultural reasons such as their religion, culture, sexual orientation, skin color, and other factors. Moving to a society with a higher social tolerance and a history of diversity and inclusion can be a pull factor that attracts people to a certain place.

    Social factors may pull people to migrate to places that do not necessarily have a higher standard of living and are not a more developed economy but perhaps align culturally or socially more with their values. Such subjective cultural aspects can be hard to measure. An example might be someone moving to a country that values their religion more than where they are.

    Economic Pull Factors

    Economic pull factors such as good and plentiful work opportunities and strong and stable economic growth are large pull factors for a country.

    Mobility fills bellies. This is what was concluded from a study in Bangladesh that gave families information and a small stipend, enough for one-way transportation and some food for a couple of days to send someone to a city to work. The families who did this saw an increase in daily calorie intake from a level slightly above starvation to one that is at the lower end of a comfortable, sustainable range.2 These pull factors of cities are why large portions of the human population have urbanized since the onset of the industrial revolution in the 19th century.

    Remittances are money migrants send back to their homes to help family, friends, and relatives pay for expenses where perhaps there are not as many work opportunities. Many migrants come to a new country to find work, live inexpensively, and save enough to send back to their families.

    The UN International Organization for Migration estimates that $702 billion in remittances were sent back by migrants to their home countries in 2020.3 The United States has been the largest country from which remittances are sent for the last several decades as it has also been the country with the largest international migrant population, having some 51 million people that were not born there as of 2019.3

    Pull Factors in Migration Syrian Refugees attempting to get to Europe StudySmarter

    Fig. 2 - Syrian Refugees attempting to get to Europe.

    Pull Factors of Migration: Examples

    Here are just a handful of examples:

    Syrians in Germany

    During the Syrian refugee crisis of the 2010s, many Syrians made their way to Germany. Why Germany? Social policies within Germany allowed the country to host many refugees, at the same time that some other European countries were not as welcoming. Also, many refugees wanted to go to Germany instead of other European countries because of Germany's pull factors. Germany's strong economy, many job opportunities, and good access to education and social services are pull factors that made it attractive to refugees.5

    Rural to Urban Migration in China

    China's population was 60% urban as of 2019, up from just 18% in 1978.2 Hundreds of millions of people moved from rural China to urban China over the course of about 30 years from the 1970s to the mid-2000s. This is believed to be the largest migratory movement in human history.

    Pull Factors in Migration Construction in China StudySmarterFig. 3 - Construction in China.

    The major pull factor in this mass urbanization was job opportunities in cities that could lift families out of poverty. Low-level manual labor jobs in coastal factories became very desirable as most who lived in the countryside lived in poverty. A factory job in a big coastal city may not sound like much, but jobs like this were the backbone of the migration that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China.

    This mass urbanization in China is part of what is often referred to as The Chinese Miracle, a period of large and rapid economic growth and wealth creation following several policy reforms in the 1970s.7

    The American Dream

    In the 19th century, the US experienced massive immigration from all over the world. The "American Dream" was pulling people who sought a new start for themselves and their descendants. People saw the US as a place where they could be anyone and become something, not constrained by the social or political norms they may have had to abide by in places they came from. Or, perhaps they were not oppressed in their homelands, but simply left to seek opportunity in a vast, open, still largely unsettled land. The US owes a lot of its size and strength today to these pull factors.

    Pull Factors of Migration - Key takeaways

    • Pull factors are attract people to move to a specific place.
    • Pull factors are usually but not always associated with improving quality of life or socio-economic circumstances.
    • Pull factors can be related to environmental, political, social, or economic factors.


    1. Fig. 1 - Flows of Migration, Positive, Neutral, or Negative. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Net_Migration_Rate.svg) by Kamalthebest (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:TriadicRelation98) is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    2. The Economist. “Why people should leave the countryside” https://www.economist.com/special-report/2019/11/14/why-people-should-leave-the-countryside. 14/Nov/2019.
    3. IOM UN Migration. “World Migration Report 2022.” https://worldmigrationreport.iom.int/wmr-2022-interactive/. 2022.
    4. Fig. 2 - Syrian Refugees Attempting to get to Europe. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20151030_Syrians_and_Iraq_refugees_arrive_at_Skala_Sykamias_Lesvos_Greece_2.jpg) by Ggia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ggia) is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en).
    5. UNHCR Cyprus. “Syria Refugee Crisis – Globally, in Europe and in Cyprus.” https://www.unhcr.org/cy/2021/03/18/syria-refugee-crisis-globally-in-europe-and-in-cyprus-meet-some-syrian-refugees-in-cyprus/#:~:text=European%20countries%20host%20over%201,half%20(560%2C000)%20are%20Syrians. 18/Mar/2021.
    6. Fig. 3 - Construction in China. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Chinese_city_(11359603824).jpg) by Clay Gilliland (https://www.flickr.com/people/26781577@N07) is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en) 6.
    7. Lin, Justin Yifu. “The China Miracle: How OECD Country Policies Contributed?” https://www.oecd.org/gov/pcsd/31799405.pdf May, 2004.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Pull Factors of Migration

    What is the difference between push and pull factors of migration?

    Push factors are what drive people from a place, while pull factors attract people to a place.

    What pull factors led to the Great Migration?

    Freedom, less racial oppression, thereby more opportunities for socio-economic advancement. 

    How are pull factors related to migration?

    Pull factors attract migrants to certain destinations, often in search of a better life. 

    How did Hurricane Katrina create both push and pull factors for migration into and out of New Orleans?

    The natural disaster pushed a lot of people out of the city due to the destruction of facilities and lack of access to basic needs. After the waters subsided and rebuilding efforts came in, this created a pull factor back to the city as many sought new opportunities as the city went through recovery.

    What are the pull factors influencing migration to Mexico City?

    It is one of the largest cities in the world, with ample work opportunities and connections to goods, services, and access to higher education and modern industries. 

    What is one example of a pull factor?

    Germany's strong economy and high quality of life are strong pull factors for migrants moving to a new country. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following are pull factors?

    What would be an example of an environmental pull factor?

    What is an example of an economic pull factor?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Human Geography Teachers

    • 10 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner