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This study disentangles the effects of feelings of relative deprivation and the capability of households in realizing their migration aspirations. For this purpose I deconstruct the concept of relative deprivation into intra-group and inter-group relative deprivation and test their relative importance together with levels of absolute deprivation in shaping migration decisions on a household level. The migration decision itself is modelled as a two-stage process which separates the decision on whether to migrate at all, and the decision where to migrate in terms of an internal or international destination. Our empirical analysis is based on a unique dataset referring to the recent 64th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) in India. This large dataset covers around 125,000 households and about 100,000 former household members counted as out-migrants. I hypothesize that intra-group as well as inter-group relative deprivation influences migration decisions and the choice of destinations. I identify two factors as relevant in this migration decision-making process. First, intra-group as well as inter-group relative deprivations are strong predictors for migration decisions in general, and in terms of possible destinations, for short-distance intra-state movements in particular. The likelihood of out-migration towards international destinations is significantly higher for households with lower levels of intra-group and inter-group relative deprivation. Second, besides the effects of relative deprivation, absolute deprivation plays an ambivalent role: while economically better endowed households have a higher migration propensity to send (primarily male) migrants to distant inter-state and international destinations, the inverse is true for moves of shorter distance that are mainly dominated by (female) migrants stemming from poorer households.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



relative deprivation, internal and international migration, India