Gender and the ‘Laws of Migration’: A Reconsideration of Nineteenth-Century Patterns


Alexander, J. Trent, and Annemarie Steidl. 2012. “Gender and the ‘Laws of Migration’: A Reconsideration of Nineteenth-Century Patterns.” Social Science History 36 (2): 223–41.

Authors: J. Trent Alexander, Annemarie Steidl


Ernest George Ravenstein’s influential “laws of migration” argued that short-distance and within-country moves were typically dominated by women. We use census micro-data to take a fresh look at the relationship between gender and internal migration in late nineteenth-century Europe and North America. We argue that there was a significant flaw in Ravenstein’s key finding on gender and that this flaw has implications for more recent scholarship of the long-term “feminization of migration.” The apparent overrepresentation of women among internal migrants was due not to their higher propensity to move but to the much higher rate at which male migrants left the population, through either death or emigration. Men were just as likely to make internal moves as women were; the difference was that men did not remain in the population to be counted when the decennial census was conducted. Like Ravenstein’s “laws of migration,” this article relies primarily on data from the 1881 census of England and Wales. Whereas Ravenstein’s work was constrained by the contents of tables published by the UK Census Office in the 1880s, we are able to ask new questions by analyzing individual-level data files recently made available by the North Atlantic Population Project.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, IDPs, Gender, Femininity/ies Regions: Americas, Europe, Western Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2012

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