* Majority migrants in India are women with high income, a graduate degree and from within the state.

* Main reason for female migration is marriage for 91% in rural areas and 61% in urban areas.

* 75% migrants in urban areas were from within the state and only 24% were from outside the state.

The traditional idea of a migrant in India is male, poor, and illiterate… and also from outside the state. But what if this was not the case? As IndiaSpend's Prachi Salve finds out, the recent National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report suggests the opposite to be true. The 64th NSSO survey on migration suggests that a migrant in India could actually be a woman with high income, a graduate degree and from within the state!

The overall migration rate is 29% for the entire country. And the migration rate towards cities (35%) is higher than towards villages (26%).

Table 1: Gender Bender

Category of personsRural Urban All India
Total People261354285

(Per 1,000 persons) (2007-08)

(Source: Ministry of Statistical and Programme Implementation (MOSPI))

It can be seen from Table 1 that there are significant differentials among the rural-urban and male-female categories. Female migration is higher than male migration in both rural and urban areas. In rural areas, the migration rate for females was 48% while it was 5% for males. Similarly, in urban areas, the female migration rate was 46% and it was only 26% for males.

More Women Migrants

The migration rate for females has increased 13% in rural areas and 37% in urban areas from 1983 to 2007-08. Male migration has been declining over the years: in rural areas, it dropped from 7% in 1983 to 5% and in urban areas from 27% in 1983 to 26% in 2007-08.

Table 2: Migration rates

NSSO Round NameMale Female Total


64th (2007-08)54477261
55th (1999-00)69426244
49th (Jan -June1993)65401228
43rd (1987-88)74398232
38th (Jan –Dec 1983)72351209


64th (2007-08)259456354
55th (1999-00)257418334
49th (Jan -June1993)239382307
43rd (1987-88)268396329
38th (Jan –Dec 1983)270366316

(Per 1000 persons)

Source: Ministry of Statistical and Programme Implementation (MOSPI)

Migrants Have Higher Expenditure

Migration in the higher expenditure* class has increased compared to lower expenditure households. While the migration rate for rural males with low spending was 3%, it was 17% for higher spending males. And there was an increase in the migration rate of female in higher spending classes in both urban and rural areas at 56% and 59%, respectively.

Table 3: More Spending, More Migrations

Expenditure Class (in %)Rural migration rate**Urban migration rate **
All classes54477259456

Source: Ministry of Statistical and Programme Implementation (MOSPI)

*Expenditure here refers to the expenditure income as calculated by the Monthly Per Capita Expenditure.

** Migration rates for different income households and per 1,000 person distribution of migrants by decile classduring 2007-08.

Why The Migration?

The main reason for female migration is marriage in the case of 91% rural females and 61% urban females followed by migration of parent/earning member of the family.Marriage as a reason for migration has shown an increasing trend over the years. And employment as a reason for migration has been on the decline for females since the 49th (1983) round.

Even though employment-related reasons are important for male migration in rural areas, there has been a reduction in its share from 48% in 1983 to 29% in 2007-08 for rural males. In case of urban areas, there is a reverse trend being observed: migration has increased from 42% in 1983 to 56% in 2007-08.

Does Education Play A Role?

Migration has been found to be the highest in rural males with a ‘diploma/certificate’…. and the pattern is repeated with urban males. Migration has also been found to be high among both urban and rural females with ‘graduate and above’ level of education.

Table 4: Education-Migration Linked?

Category of personsNot literateLiterate and up to middleSecondary and higher secondaryDiploma/certificate Graduate and aboveAll
Rural male38518322214354
Rural female562366503610628477
Rural male + female349188229334276261
Urban male167229307430382259
Urban female472397513563560456
Urban male + female348308397468452354
Rural +urban male6093173344299109
Rural +urban female547374508583576472
Grand total349218302413397285

(Source: Ministry of Statistical and Programme Implementation (MOSPI))

State Or Inter-State?

Nearly 99% migrants in the country are internal migrants. While 91% had migrated from rural areas, 8% had migrated from urban areas. In urban areas, 59% migrants came from rural areas.

Migration is clearly confined within states since 78% of migrant households in rural areas and 72% of migrant households in urban areas usually had their last place of residence within the state.

Table 5: Limited Out-Of-State Migration

Location Rural (present place of residence)Urban (present place of residence)
Rural areas of same state610433
Urban areas of same state171289
Total same state780722
Rural areas of other state91135
Urban areas of other state115139
Total another state206274
Total (all rural population)701568
Total (all urban population)286428
Other countries33
Grand total1,0001,000

(Source: Ministry of Statistical and Programme Implementation (MOSPI))

In rural areas, nearly 94% households were from within the state while only 6% were from outside the state. In the urban areas, 75% migrants were from within the state and only 24% were from outside the state.

The all-India inter-state migration rate is 810 for every 1,000 person while the out-of-state migration is only 158 per 1,000 persons. The highest inter-state migration was reported in Assam with 955 (of every 1,000 persons) followed by Jharkhand with 923. Delhi has the highest number of out-of-state migrants at 884(of every 1,000 persons) followed by Nagaland with 485.