Selective Migration in Iran: Patterns and Differences

Document Type : Extracted from the dissertation


1 Associate Professor of Demography. University of Tehran

2 Master of science/ University of Tehran



Selective Migration in Iran: Patterns and Differences


On average, one million people have migrated and moved within the country in recent decades in Iran. Changing the pattern of rural-to-urban migration to inter-urban migration, increasing migration in geographical distances, Increasing the share and participation of women in migration flows, regional inequalities, and increasing the emigration flows from the east and west to the central parts of the country, are the most important features of recent internal migration in Iran. Migration and internal displacements occur in response to a range of factors with different effectiveness. Based on the life course approach , migration depends on individual characteristics, and it includes diverse target groups. Migration is strongly linked to an individual’s passage through stages of the life course. The increase of migration in some periods of the life cycle affects migration selectivity. For example, people who are of the age to enter work or get married, are more likely to leave home and migrate. In this regard, the article uses micro-census data from 2011 and 2016 and the indicators such as migration intensity and age at migration peak, to examine the migration in Iran.


In this research, the secondary analysis of individual data of a two percent sample of the population and housing censuses of Iran in the years 2011 and 2016 has been used. Four independent variables of age, gender, education, and marital status were used to examine migration selectivity. Two indicators of migration intensity and migration age profiles were calculated as dependent variables. Excel and SPSS software were used for data analysis. Using logistic regression, we investigated the effect of independent variables on the probability of migration during 2006-2016. In the regression analysis conducted in this research, the second model was used in order to enter the two factors of residence and the level of development of the province of residence based on the scores of the human development index of the provinces as control variables, in which the provinces are divided into three The less developed category is grouped with medium development level and less developed to measure the significance of dependent variables in different development contexts.

Results and discussion

The results of the study showed that in the recent decade, the highest inter-provincial migration intensity was related to Alborz and Semnan provinces, and the lowest values were related to Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman, and West Azerbaijan provinces. The migration peak age was 24 years in 2011. The provincial differences in the peak age of migration varied from 21 years in Ardabil and Hamadan provinces to 31 years in Ilam and Lorestan provinces in 2011. The migration peak age increased to 28 years in 2016. Provincial differences in the migration peak age varied from 21 years in Qom province to 36 years in Illam province in 2016. The highest migration intensity at peak age was found in Bushehr and Semnan provinces in 2011 and Semnan and Alborz provinces in 2016. Therefore, in the stage of transition to adulthood, people are in the healthiest state of life and can migrate and move more easily (Weeks, 2012). Thus, the results of the study showed that in the decade 2006-2016, we faced age delay (especially for men) and less intensity of migration at its peak. A postponement of migration to older ages is consistent with a progressive delay of the transition to adult roles to later in life for both males and females. Migration in Asian countries is concentrated in the early 20s of life, while in Europe and North America, the peak of migration is at older ages and its scope is more scattered (Bell and Muhidin, 2009).

Based on the results, from 2011 to 2016 compared to the period of 2006-2011, gender differences in migration decreased. Of course, the results showed that men and women have different migration behaviors and reasons. Male migration age patterns are shaped by the military service and employed-related moves and whereas females migration predominately for family-and education-related reasons. Therefore, migration is a gender construct and the role of women should be investigated in migration studies. Also, the results of the study indicated that the probability of migration of people with a university education has increased in recent years. As Bernard et al. (2018) stated there are several paths and channels through which education is related to migration: First; education facilitates migration by reducing costs and barriers to movement. Second; migration can provide an opportunity for migrants to acquire new skills through education, hence, a significant number of young people migrate for further education. Finally, through migration, the distribution of human capital can change the share and composition of knowledge and skills in both regions of origin and destination.

Also, the results showed that the intensity of migration among ever-married people is higher than among never-married people. Therefore, marital status is another factor that affects the migration process and decisions. The study of Bernard et al. (2018) showed that family formation and marriage, which is one of the stages of transition to adulthood, affect migration patterns.

Therefore, the greatest migration intensity has been among young people, men, married people, and university graduates. In addition, the results showed that the intensity of migration of all ages is higher in more developed provinces than in other provinces and urban areas than in rural areas.


In general, it can be concluded that from 2011 to 2016, compared to the period of 2006-2011, gender differences in migration have decreased and on the contrary, the probability of migration of people with a university education has increased. Therefore, In some periods of the life cycle, the migration reaches its peak. Hence, Life cycle and life transition factors are consistent with the intensity of migration. Thus, migration is a selective process and it can have different consequences for the origins and destinations of migration. As a result, it is important to pay attention to the dimensions of migration selectivity in policy-making.

Keywords: Selective migration, Migration intensity, Migration peak, Development, Internal migration.


Main Subjects

Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 05 November 2022
  • Receive Date: 19 July 2022
  • Revise Date: 25 October 2022
  • Accept Date: 05 November 2022
  • First Publish Date: 05 November 2022