Emigration: Definition, Characteristics & Effects

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  • 0:08 Immigration & Emigration
  • 1:10 Pull Factors
  • 1:51 Remittances
  • 2:38 Push Factors & Restrictions
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explain the difference between immigration and emigration. In doing so, it will focus mainly on emigration. It will discuss push and pull factors that contribute to emigration, as well as the concept of remittances.

Immigration and Emigration

Often being called the Great Melting Pot, American history textbooks are full of accounts of immigration into the U.S., with immigration meaning the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country. These accounts often discuss what these new people groups did once they came upon the American shores. However, they tend to give much less column space to why they left their country of origin in the first place. Today's lesson will speak to this topic as it focuses on emigration, the act of leaving one's place of residence or country to permanently live in another.

For starters, immigration and emigration are very closely tied together. They can sort of be thought of as two sides of the same coin, since immigration is the idea of coming into a new land while emigration is the act of leaving your old one. Putting this more succinctly, people emigrate from their country in order to immigrate into another.

When speaking of the reasons for, or characteristics of emigration, social scientists usually like to discuss the idea of push and pull factors. To break this down, we'll start with pull factors.

Pull Factors

Keeping things simple, pull factors are defined as the things that attract a person to a new place. In other words, they're the things that pull them toward the new land. For instance, the opportunities for better employment or higher pay are excellent examples of pull factors. Another very common pull factor is the chance for a higher education.

Interestingly, some studies note that those who emigrate due to pull factors tend to already be more educated than the average person within their country of origin. Adding to this, they tend to be already employed prior to leaving. Getting even more specific, some studies note that the majority of those who emigrate due to pull factors tend to be young married men.


Noting all of this, it would be very easy to assume that emigration due to pull factors has a very negative effect of the country of origin, that emigrants sort of leave and never look back. However, some studies say the opposite may be true. For instance, many who emigrate actually send what are coined remittances, or funds sent back to one's country of origin. Stated plainly, they often send money back to their families still living in their homeland. This in turn boosts the homeland's economy.

Adding to this, some studies note that as these emigrants leave, the loss of them in the work place allows for better paying jobs for those left behind. In other words, when the supply of skilled labor drops, the demand and the willingness to pay for it increases.

Push Factors and Restrictions

Leaving pull factors, we now come to push factors. Push factors are things that drive one away from their homeland. As the name implies, these are the things that sort of push them out.

A great example of a push factor is famine within one's land. Probably one of the more famous of these famines was the 19th century Potato Famine of Ireland that saw thousands upon thousands of emigrants leaving Ireland and coming to America.

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