This chapter explores migration drivers and patterns and the effects of outward migration on rural economies in developing countries.

Most rural migrants move to cities or follow seasonal opportunities within their own countries. There are also large numbers of cross-border migrants. Their migration patterns are complex and can be explained, but rarely predicted, by migration theories. Both internal and cross-border migrants often face risks, hardship, and discrimination. Migration-averse media and politicians aggravate these problems.

Economic migrants are often single, young, able-bodied men and women, and their migration is often a group decision. This decision is largely based on perceived income differentials and supported by diaspora networks. The main migration aim is to generate remittances. These remittances reduce rural poverty – though not normally among those too poor to finance migration.

For rural regions, migration is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but a phenomenon that accelerates and amplifies the results of government policies, attitudes, and practices that either facilitate or impede local economic activity and other forms of development.