What Is Emigration? - Definition & Statistics

Instructor: Duane Cloud

Duane has taught teacher education courses and has a Doctorate in curriculum and instruction. His doctoral dissertation is on ''The Wizard of Oz''.

This lesson is on emigration. Here we discuss the different types of migration and some of the factors that are relevant to the permanent relocation of people to a different country. An example of emigration from the US to Mexico is given, along with some statistics.


Controversy over the fate of migrant workers in the United States is often a hot topic in the news. People have a variety of reasons for changing the country within which they reside. Regardless of where one stands on the more controversial issues, it helps to know what they are discussing. Emigration is the relocation of people from one country in order to permanently live in another. It is the same process as immigration, which is the influx of people from another country. The difference between the terms is the point of view. Both types of relocation are part of the process called migration.


The definition above is fairly brief, and since perspective is so important in the context of the definition, it may help to spend a few more words on it. Migration describes the process of people changing the nation in which they reside. Sometimes citizenship is counted as part of migration, and sometimes it is not, depending on the study. Migration may be lawful or unlawful, depending on the laws of the nations involved. Emigration is specifically used to indicate people leaving the country in question. Immigration is specifically used to indicate people arriving at the country being discussed. One emigrates from a nation, whereas one immigrates to a nation. This lesson is on emigration, but it should be noted that they are part of the same process.

Reasons for Emigration: Push and Pull

The reasons for emigration vary greatly, depending on the time period one is examining and which countries are involved. In general, people who emigrate believe it will change their lives for the better. Emigration is influenced by many factors, which may be divided into push and pull factors. Push factors drive people from a country, while pull factors influence people to come to a country. Push factors related to migration often stem from cultural and political clashes in the migrants' home countries. Some migrants are forcefully evicted from a place and must find somewhere to go. Others do not wish to move, but do so to avoid persecution for religious, ethnic, or other reasons. Many migrants of this type emigrate because they feel their lives and lifestyles are in danger. Notice how the push factors may be related to pull factors. While religious persecution is a push factor, religious freedom may be considered a pull. The difference lies in the degree of each, and which is more important to the decision.

Other reasons for emigration may include ecological reasons, such as famine in the home country or moving to a place with better resources. There are also many economic reasons, such as getting better work or finding more interesting work. Some migrants are retirees who want to spend their twilight years in another country to enjoy their retirement. The reasons for migration change with the times, as well. Many immigrants to the United States in the country's early years were indentured servants or slaves. Since slavery is now illegal in the US, there is no longer that type of migration into the country.

These are physical forces. Push and pull are forces that affect migration similar to how these physical forces affect the physical world.

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