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Correlations Between Land and Opportunity Access and Migration Status Among Youth and Young Adults: Evidence from Zambia


  • Bellinger, Megan O.
  • Muyanga, Milu
  • Mather, David
  • Machina, Henry
  • Mason, Nicole M.


Great attention is paid on an international scale to the flow of people away from rural areas, with the prevailing opinion suggesting that there is a mass migration from rural villages to increasingly overcrowded cities. However, rural to rural (intra-rural) migration remains an important source of mobility for individuals, especially those who wish to remain connected to their families and places of origin (see FAO 2007). Migration can achieve a multitude of objectives for individuals and their families, as well as the communities who send and receive the migrants. These objectives include income diversification, geographic diversification, risk reduction, social network growth, and income stabilization (Sakho-Jimbira and Bignebat 2006; FAO 2007). The situations and motivations of youth and young adults, which we define as 15-24 and 25-35 year olds, respectively, are of particular interest to us because people in this age group have a lifetime of productivity and income generation ahead of them. They are also entering the workforce as Zambia becomes more integrated into the global market, takes in investment from outside countries, and faces previously unforeseen challenges and opportunities in access to land and non-farm and off-farm employment. The goal of this paper is to assess the impact of various drivers of migration on the decisions made by youth and young adults to migrate, with a particular emphasis on the impacts of land access, inheritance patterns, and business and wage opportunities in migration decisions. We investigate this research question using descriptive and econometric analysis of data from the Rural Agricultural Livelihood Survey (RALS). In this work, information from 2012 serves as explanatory variables related to an outcome of having migrated by the next survey wave in 2015. Variables of interest and control variables were chosen through a literature review of current work on youth and migration in Africa. Results indicate that the ability to buy and sell land is correlated with a higher likelihood of migration for those who migrated to rural areas and for those aged 15-24. However, we find that for all age categories, nonfarm employment opportunities have significant correlations with likelihood of migration. Participation in businesses in natural resources (such as charcoal selling or fishing) and businesses in construction (such as brickmaking) are strongly associated with a lower likelihood of migration among youth in the sample. By contrast, employment in a private nonagricultural wage or salaried job (such as working for a bank) is associated with a much higher likelihood of migration among young adults. In the overall sample, participation in value-added food businesses (such as owning a bakery) and private non-agricultural businesses (such as shop owning or tailoring) are associated with lower likelihoods of migration. Additionally, when broken out by destination type (rural or urban) we find that individuals who are engaged in a relatively profitable business activity are less likely to migrate to rural areas, while young adults who are engaged in salaried or wage employment are more likely to migrate, especially to an urban destination. Not only is it important to understand driving factors associated with migration to contribute to the international literature on the subject, better understanding of these factors may also be important to communities who hope to retain their young populations or attract others to contribute to agricultural and off-farm community productivity and development.

Suggested Citation

  • Bellinger, Megan O. & Muyanga, Milu & Mather, David & Machina, Henry & Mason, Nicole M., 2019. "Correlations Between Land and Opportunity Access and Migration Status Among Youth and Young Adults: Evidence from Zambia," Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Papers 303520, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security (FSP).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:miffrp:303520
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.303520

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    Food Security and Poverty; International Development;

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