migration: Modern Migration Trends

Modern Migration Trends

Normal internal migration has been characterized by a population shift from rural to urban areas. In the United States, the portion of the population that lives in urban areas has risen steadily from 30% in 1910 to more than 70% in 1990; in Brazil, the percentage of urban dwellers has risen from 30% to 75% since 1940. Within urban areas, a large population shift from central cities to suburbs has occurred in the last half of the 20th cent. The development of totalitarianism and World War II resulted in a new pattern of forced mass migration within Europe. Over 30 million people were forcibly moved or scattered by the Nazis. In the postwar period c.10 million Germans and persons of German descent were forcibly expelled from Eastern Europe.

Other forced migrations since World War II have included the partitioning of India and Pakistan, which uprooted 18 million, and the establishment of the state of Israel, which created about one million refugees (see refugee). After the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, more than 600,000 fled Vietnam in the face of political persecution; many fled by boat and became known as the “boat people.” In South Africa, under the policies of apartheid, blacks were forced to live in designated “homelands” from 1959 to 1994. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to the migration of millions of Afghans to neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

In the 1980s and 90s war and civil strife continued to force massive refugee migration in many parts of the world. In Somalia and Ethiopia, civil war combined with long-term drought have resulted in large migrations of peoples (often from rural to urban areas and to neighboring countries) in an attempt to avoid famine. Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees (see Kurds) have migrated from Iraq to Turkey and Iran in the wake of the civil war that followed the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s caused the dislocation of many peoples, especially Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs in areas other than Serbia, and Kosovars. In Rwanda and Burundi, millions of people, primarily Hutus, fled as ethnic civil war wrenched those nations in the mid-1990s; many of them fled to Zaïre (now Congo), where their presence aggravated civil and international strife.

The accelerating economic development in China that began in the 1990s led to an enormous migration from rural to urban areas, despite significant restrictions the Chinese government placed on changing residencies. Economic opportunity also has long been the major factor of the often illegal migration of individuals and families from Latin America into the United States, but political insecurity and violence has contributed as well, especially where Central America has been concerned. In Europe in the later 20th and early 21st cent., economic conditions have driven much of the migration to the continent from Africa, but conflict and political insecurity have also played a part. Conflict, however, was the dominant reason for the migration of hundreds of thousands from the Middle East, especially Syria, in the 2010s. Persecution and ethnic cleansing in 2017 against Muslim Rohingya in mainly Buddhist Myanmar resulted in the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring Bangladesh.

In 2018, following a 2016 declaration on international migration by the United Nations, 150 nations signed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Affirming that migrants no matter what their status have human rights, the compact sought to improve access to basic services, eliminate discrimination and safeguard working conditions, improve antismuggling and antitrafficking measures and efforts, and provide for a safe, dignified repatriation. Although the compact was nonbinding, a number of nations including the United States, Australia, and several East European nations rejected the compact.

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