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Rural/Urban Migrations in Zimbabwe in 1982-92: Selectivity by Gender, Place of Birth, and Educational Attainment


  • Kao-Lee Liaw
  • Yasuko Hayase


This paper studies the selectivity of the 1982-92 rural/urban migrations of the Africans in Zimbabwe, based on the data from a multidimensional tabulation of all the individual records in the 1992 Population Census. The focus is on the selectivity with respect to gender, place of birth, and educational attainment. The selectivity is interpreted in the context of the country's colonial legacy, cultural norms, and current socioeconomic conditions. Main findings: First, the urban-to-rural out-migration rates of both male and female adult Africans showed practically no declining trend with increasing age: they remained high through all working ages. This could be partly due to the lagged effect of the colonial government's white urban policy which prevented most African urban workers from accumulating much location-specific capital in urban areas as they became older. Second, relative to the male Africans, the female Africans were not only much less able to make rural-to-urban migrations but also much more prone to make urban-to-rural migrations through most working ages. This was related to the heavy reliance of farming on female labor in the indigenous cultural system, and to the relative scarcity of female employment opportunities in urban areas. Third, only male Africans, especially those who were rural-born and had no education, showed a sharp increase in the propensities to make urban-to-rural migration toward old ages. This could be a reflection of the fact that the most important forms of location-specific capital for most elderly African men were a piece of farm land and the privileged status as the elders of patrilineal families in their rural communities, and the fact that many married male migrant workers continued the custom of leaving their wives behind in rural areas. Fourth, the Africans with no education were so unable to migrate from rural to urban areas and so easily pushed out of urban areas that they contributed to the "counter-urbanization" in the lower strata of the educational hierarchy during a prolonged period of economic stagnation. Fifth, the urban/rural migrations resulted in a substantial improvement in urban human capital and a substantial decrease in rural human capital. With a very high unemployment rate in urban areas and a shortage of young adult labor in rural areas during the current prolonged economic stagnation, these effects represented a massive waste of valuable human resources. However, the government should not initiate regulations to control rural-to-urban migrations.

Suggested Citation

  • Kao-Lee Liaw & Yasuko Hayase, 1997. "Rural/Urban Migrations in Zimbabwe in 1982-92: Selectivity by Gender, Place of Birth, and Educational Attainment," Quantitative Studies in Economics and Population Research Reports 323, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:qseprr:323

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    More about this item


    rural/urban migration; Zimbabwe; census;

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts


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