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The Gravity Model of Migration: The Successful Comeback of an Ageing Superstar in Regional Science


  • Poot, Jacques

    (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

  • Alimi, Omoniyi

    (University of Waikato)

  • Cameron, Michael P.

    (University of Waikato)

  • Maré, David C.

    (Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust)


For at least half a century, and building on observations first made a century earlier, the gravity model has been the most commonly-used paradigm for understanding gross migration flows between regions. This model owes its success to, firstly, its intuitive consistency with migration theories; secondly, ease of estimation in its simplest form; and, thirdly, goodness of fit in most applications. While fitting gravity models of aggregate migration flows started taking backstage to microdata analysis in the 1980s, a recent comeback has resulted from increasing applications to international migration and from the emergence of statistical theories appropriate for studying spatial interaction. In this paper we review the status quo and argue for greater integration of internal and international migration modelling. Additionally we revisit the issues of parameter stability and distance deterrence measurement by means of a New Zealand case study. We argue that gravity modelling of migration has a promising future in a multi-regional stochastic population projection system – an area in which the model has been to date surprisingly underutilised. We conclude with outlining current challenges and opportunities in this field.

Suggested Citation

  • Poot, Jacques & Alimi, Omoniyi & Cameron, Michael P. & Maré, David C., 2016. "The Gravity Model of Migration: The Successful Comeback of an Ageing Superstar in Regional Science," IZA Discussion Papers 10329, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10329

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    Cited by:

    1. Xing Li & Xiangyu Ge & Wei Fan & Hao Zheng, 2021. "Research on Spatial Correlation Characteristics and Their Spatial Spillover Effect of Local Government Debt Risks in China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(5), pages 1-32, March.
    2. Arthur Grimes & Shaan Badenhorst & David C. Maré & Jacques Poot, 2020. "Hometown whanau or big city millennials? The economic geography of graduate destination choices in New Zealand," Working Papers 20_04, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
    3. Tadesse Soka Gignarta & ZhenZhong Guan & Dinkneh Gebre Borojo, 2020. "The Impacts of Economic Freedom and Institutional Quality on Migration from African Countries," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 88(3), pages 242-266, September.
    4. Sardadvar, Sascha & Vakulenko, Elena, 2020. "Estimating and interpreting internal migration flows in Russia by accounting for network effects," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 69(C).
    5. Ngoc Thi Minh Tran & Michael P. Cameron & Jacques Poot, 2017. "Local Institutional Quality and Return Migration: Evidence from Vietnam," Working Papers in Economics 17/10, University of Waikato.
    6. Kelly, Morgan & Ó Gráda, Cormac, 2018. "Gravity and Migration before Railways: Evidence from Parisian Prostitutes and Revolutionaries," CEPR Discussion Papers 13046, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. John F. Helliwell & Max B. Norton & Shun Wang & Lara B. Aknin & Haifang Huang, 2021. "Well-being Analysis Favours a Virus-Elimination Strategy for COVID-19," NBER Working Papers 29092, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Honorata Bogusz & Szymon Winnicki & Piotr Wójcik, 2020. "What factors determine unequal suburbanisation? New evidence from Warsaw, Poland," Working Papers 2020-34, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    9. Rosmaiza Abdul Ghani & Michael P. Cameron & William Cochrane & Matthew Roskruge, 2020. "The Causal Impact of Trade on Migration: A Gravity Model Estimation," Working Papers in Economics 20/01, University of Waikato.
    10. Iordache Mihaela & Matei Mihaela, 2020. "Explaining Recent Romanian Migration: A Modified Gravity Model with Panel Data," Journal of Social and Economic Statistics, Sciendo, vol. 9(1), pages 46-64, August.
    11. Ali Tarık AKARCA & Aysıt TANSEL, 2018. "Analyzing Internal Migration to Antalya and Muğla through Gravity Modelling," Sosyoekonomi Journal, Sosyoekonomi Society, issue 26(37).
    12. Michael Berlemann & Max Friedrich Steinhardt, 2017. "Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and Migration—a Survey of the Empirical Evidence," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 63(4), pages 353-385.
    13. Parker Elliott, 2020. "Migration Patterns in Eastern Europe and the World: A Gravity Approach," South East European Journal of Economics and Business, Sciendo, vol. 15(1), pages 66-79, June.
    14. Alfred Stiglbauer, 2020. "EU-Mitgliedschaft, EU-Erweiterung und die Auswirkungen auf den österreichischen Arbeitsmarkt," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue Q1-Q2/20, pages 75-88.
    15. Michael P. Cameron & Jacques Poot, 2019. "The estimation and interpretation of coefficients in panel gravity models of migration," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 9-15, April.
    16. Michael P. Cameron, 2017. "Climate Change, Internal Migration and the Future Spatial Distribution of Population: A Case Study of New Zealand," Working Papers in Economics 17/03, University of Waikato.
    17. Xin Lao & Tiyan Shen & Hengyu Gu, 2018. "Prospect on China’s Urban System by 2020: Evidence from the Prediction Based on Internal Migration Network," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(3), pages 1-21, February.
    18. María Gutiérrez-Portilla & Adolfo Maza & María Hierro, 2018. "Foreigners versus natives in Spain: different migration patterns? Any changes in the aftermath of the crisis?," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 61(1), pages 139-159, July.
    19. Ivana Drazenovic & Marina Kunovac & Dominik Pripuzic, 2018. "Dynamics and determinants of emigration: the case of Croatia and the experience of new EU member states," Public Sector Economics, Institute of Public Finance, vol. 42(4), pages 415-447.
    20. Aksoy, Ozan & Yıldırım, Sinan, 2020. "A model of dynamic migration networks: Explaining Turkey's inter-provincial migration flows," SocArXiv rf724, Center for Open Science.
    21. Yang Cheng & Yuxia Lv & Mark Rosenberg & Linke Hou, 2018. "Decision Making of Non-Agricultural Work by Rural Residents in Weifang, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(5), pages 1-15, May.

    More about this item


    gravity model; internal migration; international migration; population projection;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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