Push and pull factors are used to explain why people choose to migrate. Anthropologists studying voluntary human migration have identified various factors that correlate, either positively or negatively, to the intensity of migration flow. Ultimately, a migrant's decision to emigrate from his home country to immigrate to a new country is the result of the interaction between both push and pull factors.
Migration occurs when an individual moves and takes up residence in another location. Typically, for a movement to be considered migration, the migrant cannot return to her initial home. Migration occurs for different social, political and economic reasons and is of interest to sociologists because of how it reflects changes occurring within a society.
Push factors are those that encourage a migrant to leave his place of residence. A migrant is more likely to perceive push factors more accurately than pull factors because he is more familiar with the place where he is living than the place that he is moving too. Push factors include considerations such as the cost of living, personal safety, environmental catastrophes or more minor issues such as weather and climate.
Pull factors are those that attract a migrant to a country, such as the migrant's perceptions of the physical, economic, social and political conditions of the country she plans to move to. These perceptions tend to be based on what the migrant may have heard or read, rather than on what he has experienced, and so the positives tend to be exaggerated.
Examples of Push and Pull Factors
Young people often move from remote rural locations to urban centers. This migration occurs because the push factors -- limited economic opportunities and lack of entertainment and diversions -- and pull factors -- jobs, cultural attractions, better services -- are both strong. But people can react differently to these same factors, as, for example, when a person prefers the stability of rural life. Therefore, people can have different perceptions of the push and pull factors involved.