In-Migration and Out-Migration: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:00 In-Migration Vs. Out-Migration
  • 1:17 Examples
  • 1:58 Recent Trends in Migration
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definitions of in-migration and out-migration and differentiate these two concepts from immigration. You'll also be given examples of in-migration and out-migration and explore their causes and impacts.

In-Migration Vs. Out-Migration

Most of us are familiar with the term immigration, which is the process of people moving from one country to another with the intent of living there permanently. In the U.S., the majority of immigrants are Mexican. As of 2014, there were approximately 11.7 million Mexicans who had made the United States their home and half of those immigrated to the United States just in the last 30 years.

In-migration and out-migration refer to the process of people moving from one area to another within their own country. They're basically the same process, but they're referring to the different directions this process can take.

In-migration is the process of people moving into a new area in their country to live there permanently. Out-migration is the process of people moving out of an area in their country to move to another area in their country permanently.

Many times when we're speaking about in- and out-migration, it's in reference to a large-scale or ongoing movement from one area to another. There are many possible reasons for in- and out-migration, but most involve people wanting a better life in a new area maybe for a better job, weather or cost-of-living.


When we think about a large-scale move of a large group of people within the U.S., we can think about African or black Americans who in-migrated from the south to the north after the Civil War. After the Civil War, there were more opportunities and the north was more inclusive of African or black Americans.

Another example of in-migration and out-migration was during the Industrial Revolution in the United States in the early 1800s. Because of the increase in jobs in construction, railroads, factories and stores in cities, many residents who once enjoyed the rural life out-migrated from the country to in-migrate to busy cities for better economic opportunities.

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Additional Activities

Writing Prompts About In-Migration and Out-Migration

Poster Prompt 1:

Create a poster that defines immigration, in-migration, and out-migration. Tip: It might be helpful to draw maps on your poster to better illustrate these phenomena.

Letter Prompt 1:

Imagine that you are someone who has just migrated from one area of the country to another. Write a letter to a family member or friend from your original home to explain why you left and what drew you to the new region or state. Your letter could be set in the present day, or it could be from an historical time period.


You could write as if you were an African American from the South who moved to the North during the period of the Great Migration.

List Prompt 1:

Make a list of all of the reasons for out-migration that you can think of. Tip: Be creative and also consider using examples from history!


People migrating out of California might do so out of fear of earthquakes.

List Prompt 2:

Make a list of all of the reasons that you can think of for in-migration. Tip: Consider historical examples and be creative!


The promise of work in the auto industry led many people from the South to migrate to Detroit and other Northern cities.

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