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The Big March: Migratory Flows after the Partition of India


  • Bharadwaj, Prashant

    (Yale U)

  • Khwaja, Asim Ijaz

    (Harvard U)

  • Mian, Atif

    (U of Chicago)


The partition of India in 1947 along ostensibly religious lines into India, Pakistan, and what eventually became Bangladesh resulted in one of the largest and most rapid migrations in human history. We compile district level census data from archives to quantify the scale of migratory flows across the sub-continent. We estimate total migratory inflows of 14.5 million and outflows of 17.9 million, implying 3.4 million "missing" people. We also uncover a substantial degree of regional variability. Flows were much larger along the western border, higher in cities and areas close to the border, and dependent heavily on the size of the "minority" religious group. The migratory flows also display a "relative replacement effect" with in-migrants moving to places that saw greater out-migration.

Suggested Citation

  • Bharadwaj, Prashant & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Mian, Atif, 2008. "The Big March: Migratory Flows after the Partition of India," Working Paper Series rwp08-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp08-029

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    Cited by:

    1. Lu, Frances & Siddiqui, Sameem & Bharadwaj, Prashant, 2021. "Marriage outcomes of displaced women," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).
    2. Prashant Bharadwaj & James Fenske, 2011. "Partition, Migration, and Jute Cultivation in India," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(8), pages 1084-1107, January.
    3. Abhinav Mehrotra & Chhaya Bhardwaj, 2022. "Need for a National Legislation on Refugees in India at 75," India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, , vol. 78(2), pages 297-317, June.
    4. Jha, Saumitra, 2014. "‘Unfinished business’: Historic complementarities, political competition and ethnic violence in Gujarat," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 18-36.
    5. Bhattacharya, Nilanjan & Pakrashi, Debayan & Saha, Sarani & Wang, Liang C., 2023. "Identity assimilation: Impact of conflict and partition on the giving behaviors of refugees and natives in West Bengal," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1297, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    6. Kim, Rockli & Mohanty, Sanjay K. & Subramanian, S.V., 2016. "Multilevel Geographies of Poverty in India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 349-359.
    7. Shikha Silwal, 2017. "On peace and development economics," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, EPS Publishing, vol. 12(2), pages 5-9, October.
    8. Kwok Tong Soo, 2014. "Zipf, Gibrat and geography: Evidence from China, India and Brazil," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(1), pages 159-181, March.
    9. Jha, Saumitra & Wilkinson, Steven, 2012. "Veterans, Organizational Skill and Ethnic Cleansing: Evidence from the Partition of South Asia," Research Papers 2092, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    10. Oliver Vanden Eynde, 2016. "Military Service and Human Capital Accumulation: Evidence from Colonial Punjab," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(4), pages 10031035-10.
    11. Bharadwaj, Prashant & Ali Mirza, Rinchan, 2019. "Displacement and development: Long term impacts of population transfer in India," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.
    12. An, Galina & Becker, Charles M., 2013. "Uncertainty, Insecurity, and Emigration from Kazakhstan to Russia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 44-66.
    13. Castelló-Climent, Amparo & Chaudhary, Latika & Mukhopadhyay, Abhiroop, 2015. "Tertiary Education and Prosperity: Catholic Missionaries to Luminosity in India," IZA Discussion Papers 9441, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. Maqsood Aslam & Etienne Farvaque & Muhammad Azmat Hayat, 2022. "One partition, many divisions? Ethnicities and education in Pakistan," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 16(2), pages 405-428, May.
    15. Bandiera, Oriana & Rasul, Imran & Viarengo, Martina, 2013. "The Making of Modern America: Migratory Flows in the Age of Mass Migration," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 23-47.
    16. Chakravarty, Surajeet & Fonseca, Miguel A. & Ghosh, Sudeep & Kumar, Pradeep & Marjit, Sugata, 2019. "Religious fragmentation, social identity and other-regarding preferences: Evidence from an artefactual field experiment in India," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    17. Saumitra Jha, 2013. ""Unfinished Business": Ethnic Complementarities and the Political Contagion of Peace and Conflict in Gujarat," NBER Working Papers 19203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Kurosaki, Takashi & Shonchoy, Abu S & Tsubota, Kenmei, 2018. "Displacement in Bengal, revisited," IDE Discussion Papers 709, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    19. Tumbe, Chinmay, 2020. "Pandemics and Historical Mortality in India," IIMA Working Papers WP 2020-12-03, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
    20. Guzi, Martin & Huber, Peter & Mikula, Štěpán, 2021. "The long-term impact of the resettlement of the Sudetenland on residential migration," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C).

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