Correlations Between Land and Opportunity Access and Migration Status Among Youth and Young Adults: Evidence from Zambia


December 13, 2019 - Author: Megan O. Bellinger, , , Henry Machina, and Nicole M. Mason

Megan O. Bellinger, Milu Muyanga, David Mather, Henry Machina, and Nicole M. Mason, 2019. Correlations Between Land and Opportunity Access and Migration Status Among Youth and Young Adults: Evidence from Zambia, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Paper 160.


Great attention is paid on an international scale to the flow of people away from rural areas, with the
prevailing opinion suggesting that there is a mass migration from rural villages to increasingly
overcrowded cities. However, rural to rural (intra-rural) migration remains an important source of
mobility for individuals, especially those who wish to remain connected to their families and places
of origin (see FAO 2007). Migration can achieve a multitude of objectives for individuals and their
families, as well as the communities who send and receive the migrants. These objectives include
income diversification, geographic diversification, risk reduction, social network growth, and income
stabilization (Sakho-Jimbira and Bignebat 2006; FAO 2007). The situations and motivations of
youth and young adults, which we define as 15-24 and 25-35 year olds, respectively, are of particular
interest to us because people in this age group have a lifetime of productivity and income generation
ahead of them. They are also entering the workforce as Zambia becomes more integrated into the
global market, takes in investment from outside countries, and faces previously unforeseen
challenges and opportunities in access to land and non-farm and off-farm employment.

The goal of this paper is to assess the impact of various drivers of migration on the decisions made
by youth and young adults to migrate, with a particular emphasis on the impacts of land access,
inheritance patterns, and business and wage opportunities in migration decisions. We investigate this
research question using descriptive and econometric analysis of data from the Rural Agricultural
Livelihood Survey (RALS). In this work, information from 2012 serves as explanatory variables
related to an outcome of having migrated by the next survey wave in 2015. Variables of interest and
control variables were chosen through a literature review of current work on youth and migration in

Results indicate that the ability to buy and sell land is correlated with a higher likelihood of migration
for those who migrated to rural areas and for those aged 15-24. However, we find that for all age
categories, nonfarm employment opportunities have significant correlations with likelihood of
migration. Participation in businesses in natural resources (such as charcoal selling or fishing) and
businesses in construction (such as brickmaking) are strongly associated with a lower likelihood of
migration among youth in the sample. By contrast, employment in a private nonagricultural wage or
salaried job (such as working for a bank) is associated with a much higher likelihood of migration
among young adults. In the overall sample, participation in value-added food businesses (such as
owning a bakery) and private non-agricultural businesses (such as shop owning or tailoring) are
associated with lower likelihoods of migration.

Additionally, when broken out by destination type (rural or urban) we find that individuals who are
engaged in a relatively profitable business activity are less likely to migrate to rural areas, while young
adults who are engaged in salaried or wage employment are more likely to migrate, especially to an
urban destination.

Not only is it important to understand driving factors associated with migration to contribute to the
international literature on the subject, better understanding of these factors may also be important to
communities who hope to retain their young populations or attract others to contribute to
agricultural and off-farm community productivity and development.



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