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The Role of Migration in the Urban Transition: A Demonstration From Albania


  • Mathias Lerch



Although natural increase has been recognized as the main driver of postwar urban growth in developing countries, urban transition theory predicts a dominant role for population mobility in the early and late phases of the process. To account for this discrepancy between theory and empirical evidence, I demonstrate the complex role played by internal and international migration in the pattern of urban growth. Using a combination of indirect demographic estimations for postwar Albania, I show that the dominant contribution of natural increase from the 1960s to the 1990s was induced by a limited urban in-migration; this was due to the restrictions on leaving the countryside imposed under communist rule and, thereafter, to the redirection abroad of rural out-migrants. Although young adults in cities also engaged in international movements and significantly reduced their fertility, the indirect effects of rural-to-urban migration attenuated the fall in urban birth rates and postponed demographic aging. In-migrants swelled urban cohorts of reproductive age and delayed the urban fertility transition. Despite a high level of urban natural increase in Albania, I thus conclude that the role of population mobility dominated in the early and most recent phases of urban growth. The results also have implications for our understanding of demographic processes during the second urban transition in developing countries. Copyright Population Association of America 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Mathias Lerch, 2014. "The Role of Migration in the Urban Transition: A Demonstration From Albania," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(4), pages 1527-1550, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:51:y:2014:i:4:p:1527-1550
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-014-0315-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Coleman, 2006. "Immigration and Ethnic Change in Low-Fertility Countries: A Third Demographic Transition," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 32(3), pages 401-446.
    2. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1998. "The Age of Mass Migration: Causes and Economic Impact," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195116519.
    3. Arjan Gjonca & Arnstein Aassve & Letizia Mencarini, 2008. "Albania: Trends and patterns, proximate determinants and policies of fertility change," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 19(11), pages 261-292, July.
    4. Rogers, Andrei, 1982. "Sources of Urban Population Growth and Urbanization, 1950-2000: A Demographic Accounting," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(3), pages 483-506, April.
    5. Tim Dyson, 2011. "The Role of the Demographic Transition in the Process of Urbanization," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 37(Supplemen), pages 34-54, January.
    6. Michael Todaro, 1980. "Internal Migration in Developing Countries: A Survey," NBER Chapters,in: Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries, pages 361-402 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alberto Zezza & Gero Carletto & Benjamin Davis, 2005. "Moving Away from Poverty: A spatial analysis of poverty and migration in Albania," Working Papers 05-02, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Mathias Lerch, 2016. "Internal and International Migration Across the Urban Hierarchy in Albania," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 35(6), pages 851-876, December.
    2. Martin Bell & Elin Charles-Edwards & Philipp Ueffing & John Stillwell & Marek Kupiszewski & Dorota Kupiszewska, 2015. "Internal Migration and Development: Comparing Migration Intensities Around the World," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 41(1), pages 33-58, March.
    3. Benassi, Federico & Boeri, Marco & Elezi, Pranvera & Zindato, Donatella, 2016. "The importance of spatial adjustment processes in the labour force: the case of Albania," MPRA Paper 74500, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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