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Rural-Urban Migration, Its Causes and Effects Essay

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Updated: Nov 8th, 2020


The movement of people from rural areas to urban areas has been a concern focused on by many studies. According to the United Nations report, almost 50% of the total world population lives in urban areas, and the figure is expected to increase by 10% by the year 2030. This is an indication of the massive movement of people from rural areas to big cities. Rural to urban migration is higher in developing countries as compared to the developed nations. In Nigeria, a developing country, the population in cities is projected to rise from 1.9 billion to 3.9 billion between 2009 and 2030 (Ajaero & Onokala, 2013). This paper explains the causes and the impacts of migration of population from rural areas to large cities. Although the reasons for rural-urban migration vary from one country to another, the causes and effects are similar.


The factors responsible for the movement of people from rural areas to large cities are characterized by either a push or a pull. People are mostly pulled to the areas with positive characteristics and pushed from those with undesirable conditions. Rural to urban migration usually occurs as people look for perceived or actual opportunities that are missing in rural settings but present in large cities. Additionally, the migration takes place as people living in rural areas escape the hostile or unfavorable living conditions. Most urban centers have the majority of wealth, economic activities, and different services as compared to rural areas (Okhankhuele & Opafunso, 2013). On the other hand, rural areas have continuously experienced neglect and degraded environment. Most of the government policies favor the development of urban areas by deliberately and constantly creating more employment and academic opportunities, healthcare facilities, transport systems, among other infrastructural amenities in the urban areas than rural parts (Ali, Shafi, Rehman, & Jadoon, 2015). As a result, the imbalance of quality of life and development between the two areas occurs, consequently increasing the rural to urban migration.

People may decide to migrate from rural to urban areas due to disrupted economy, for instance, as a result of natural disasters like floods, drought, earthquakes, soil infertility, and misfortunes such as war family/community disputes among others. According to Isaac and Raqib (2013), most of the rural-urban migration in Ghana is due to the search for employment opportunities, which are normally concentrated in the major cities. Most of the Ghanians attribute such as migration to economic purposes. The migrants, most of whom are men, are frustrated by the limited resources for livelihood in rural areas, and the scarcity compels them to look for greener pastures in large cities so that they can get enough to take care of their families. Other migrants cite harsh environmental factors as reasons for their movement from rural areas to cities. Farming, the major economic activity in most rural areas, is adversely affected by the harsh environmental conditions such as infertile soil and inadequate rain for farming. Besides, farming faces other challenges such as limited lands, high fertilizer costs, and low crop prices. All such factors negatively affect agricultural production and profitability. As a result, the youth have continued to lose interest in farming and perceive the agricultural lifestyle as a low-status career. Therefore, they move to large cities to look for seemingly more promising jobs.


Rural to urban migration affects the conditions of the rural areas as well as those in large cities where the migrants settle after moving from their original homes. First, the population of the countryside reduces significantly, and as a result, the agricultural production and development in the regions are adversely affected (Bimerew, 2015). As the youthful move to cities to look for better livelihood, the fascinating social life in the rural areas is replaced by a gloomy condition. The youthful people have energy and vitality, and their movement leaves behind weak, aging parents and young children to carry out farming activities. As a result, the agricultural output reduces, consequently leading to decreased country’s gross domestic product as well as minimal rural income, development funds, and standard of living (Jahan, 2012).

The rural development stagnates, and the areas lack vital social amenities. For instance, the Nigerian rural areas do not have social facilities like proper roads for motor vehicle transport, industries, pipe-borne water, and electricity, as well as well-paying jobs due to increased movement of people to cities. These inadequacies have seen the Nigerian rural areas undergo a vicious poverty cycle. The majority of the educated and strong people desert rural areas, leaving behind the illiterate population in the countryside who are unable to fight poverty effectively. As a result, the standards of living in rural and large cities differ significantly, the latter being better places to live in.

The movement of people from rural regions to major cities has various consequences on the basic facilities in urban areas. Cities become overcrowded, congested, and experience high food costs, a strain on social services, as well as aggravating air and water-borne diseases. The unplanned expansion of cities also leads to the inadequate supply of social amenities such as housing, transport infrastructures, electricity, and water, as well as sewerage system issues (Isaac & Raqib, 2013). The increase in the squatter settlement in cities is perhaps the most remarkable impact of rural-urban migration. The huge increase in city population as a result of the movement has made it difficult for the urban authorities to keep records of the details of the people living in the areas properly.

Attributable to the absence of proper records, the control of some criminal activities such as robbery, theft, murder, among others, becomes a complicated affair in some of the large cities (Okhankhuele & Opafunso, 2013). Besides, the farmers surrounding the expanding cities are displaced as a result of the unplanned growth of the urban areas. Consequently, the agricultural production continues to decline and the displaced people may resort to relocating to urban areas, where job opportunities are already limited, in search of better livelihood. The majority of the people who move from urban to rural areas get jobs in informal sectors, which eventually become congested, resulting in reduced productivity and minimal opportunities for eradicating poverty. Most of the new workers in the cities tend to start up their businesses for employment, and this has made self-employment in urban areas account for 71%, 63%, 61%, and 59% of the entire informal employment in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Latin America, and Asia respectively.


Although the migration of people is a global phenomenon, more rural populations in the developing countries move to cities as compared to the developed nations. The migration is triggered by factors that push these people away from rural areas or opportunities and amenities in the urban regions that are not present in the countryside. Although this shift of population leads to increased self-employment in the cities, other negative impacts such as congestion, increased unemployment levels, poor drainage systems, and crime among others are caused by the scenario in urban areas. Additionally, rural areas experience low agricultural output, stagnated development, and a huge aging/weak population.


Ajaero, C. K., & Onokala, P. C. (2013). The effects of rural-urban migration on rural communities of southeastern Nigeria. International Journal of Population Research, 2(13), 1-11.

Ali, H., Shafi, M., Rehman, M., & Jadoon, M. (2015). Causes and effects of rural-urban migration in rural areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-Pakistan. Arts and Social Sciences Journal, 6(5), 1-6.

Bimerew, H. (2015). Rural-urban migration and its consequence on urban living: The case in Hawassa city Southern Ethiopia. Global Journal of Human-Social Science Research, 15(4), 60-75.

Isaac, A., & Raqib, A. S. (2013). Rural-urban migration and rural community development: A case of Kpongu community of Upper West Region of Ghana. African Journal of History and Culture, 5(4), 72.

Jahan, M. (2012). Impact of rural urban migration on physical and social environment: The case of Dhaka city. International Journal of Development and Sustainability, 1(2), 186-194.

Okhankhuele, O. T., & Opafunso, O. Z. (2013). Causes and consequences of rural-urban migration Nigeria: A Case study of Ogun Waterside local government area of Ogun State, Nigeria. British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 16(1), 185-194.

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