Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 593–614 | Cite as

Causes of Urban Migration in Bangladesh: Evidence from the Urban Health Survey

  • Raaj Kishore BiswasEmail author
  • Enamul Kabir
  • Hafiz T. A. Khan
Research Briefs


Mass migration is increasing urban populations globally. One country where urban migration is significantly increasing is Bangladesh, where systematic research will explore the reasons for urban migration in order to devise policies in this area, including maintaining the balance of urban–rural developments. This study used the Urban Health Survey (UHS) 2013 to ascertain the reasons for urban migration in large divisional cities in Bangladesh. The 2013 survey examined the differences between male and female migration, alongside any significant sociodemographic factors that might contribute to their motivation for moving to the city. The survey revealed that a majority of women (64.8%) migrated for family purposes, for example, joining husbands or in-laws, or parents/children. However, in recent years, female migrants have been involved in income-generating activities mostly due to a recent garment-making boom in Dhaka and its suburbs. A higher proportion of men (85.3%) moved to urban areas for work-related reasons: searching for new jobs, better income, or transfer in services. Among the sample in this study, 77% of the respondents (79.3% female and 73.5% male) migrated from villages. This migration mostly centered on Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, where 68.1% of the total study sample migrated followed by 15.7% who went to Chittagong. The results indicate that the contemporary urban-centered economic policy in Bangladesh might require revision to accommodate the increased migrants from rural areas.


Urban migration Rural–urban migration Urbanization Dhaka Bangladesh South-Asia 



The authors would like to acknowledge the collaborative effort of the National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT), Measure Evaluation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, and International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), who made their data available for free. We would like to express our gratitude to the Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences (HES) of the University of Southern Queensland for the technical support it provided.

Author Contributions

RKB conceptualized the study, compiled the data, synthesized the analysis plan, performed statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript. EK assisted to develop the methodology and edited the manuscript. The manuscript was critically reviewed and edited by HTAK.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests. All authors read the final manuscript and approved it.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. The Bangladesh demographic and health Surveys were approved by ICF Macro Institutional Review Board and the National Research Ethics Committee of the Bangladesh Medical Research Council. A written consent about the survey was given by participants before interview. All identification of the respondents was dis-identified before publishing data. The secondary data sets analyzed during the current study are freely available upon request from the DHS website at


  1. Adams, A. M., Islam, R., & Ahmed, T. (2015). Who serves the urban poor? A geospatial and descriptive analysis of health services in slum settlements in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Health Policy and planning, 30(suppl 1), i32–i45.Google Scholar
  2. Agresti, A., & Kateri, M. (2011). Categorical data analysis. In International encyclopedia of statistical science, (pp. 206–208). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Ahmed, F. Z., Greenleaf, A., & Sacks, A. (2014a). The paradox of export growth in areas of weak governance: The case of the ready made garment sector in Bangladesh. World Development, 56, 258–271.Google Scholar
  4. Ahmed, S. J., Nahiduzzaman, K. M., & Bramley, G. (2014b). From a town to a megacity: 400 years of growth. In Dhaka Megacity, (pp. 23–43). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  5. Akhter, S., & Bauer, S. (2014). Household level determinants of rural-urban migration in Bangladesh. International Journal of Social, Human Science and Engineering, 8(1), 24–27.Google Scholar
  6. Al Jaber, S., Ghosh, A. K., & Mahmud, M. S. (2014). Using time series of satellite images to detect vegetation cover change in dhaka city. Journal of Geographic Information System, 6(06), 653.Google Scholar
  7. Angeles, G., Al-Sabir, A., Lance, P., Buckner, B., Streatfield, P., Karar, Z., et al. (2013). Bangladesh urban health survey (uhs) 2013. National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT); International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b); MEASURE Evaluation, 2016., UNC Dataverse, V1.
  8. Barrios, S., Bertinelli, L., & Strobl, E. (2006). Climatic change and rural–urban migration: The case of sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Urban Economics, 60(3), 357–371.Google Scholar
  9. Benjamin, D. J., Berger, J. O., Johannesson, M., Nosek, B. A., Wagenmakers, E.-J., Berk, R., et al. (2017). Redefine statistical significance. Nature Human Behaviour, (p. 1).Google Scholar
  10. Berg, C. N., & Shahe Emran, M. (2017). Microfinance and vulnerability to seasonal famine in a rural economy: Evidence from monga in Bangladesh.Google Scholar
  11. Biswas, R. K., Rahman, N., Kabir, E., & Raihan, F. (2017). Women’s opinion on the justification of physical spousal violence: A quantitative approach to model the most vulnerable households in Bangladesh. PLoS ONE, 12(11), e0187884.Google Scholar
  12. Boyd, M., & Grieco, E. (2003). Women and migration: Incorporating gender into international migration theory. Migration Information Source, 1(35), 28.Google Scholar
  13. Brueckner, J. K., & Lall, S. (2015). Cities in developing countries: Fueled by rural-urban migration, lacking in tenure security, and short of affordable housing. Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, 5, 1399–1455.Google Scholar
  14. Bryan, G., Chowdhury, S., & Mobarak, A. M. (2014). Underinvestment in a profitable technology: The case of seasonal migration in Bangladesh. Econometrica, 82(5), 1671–1748.Google Scholar
  15. Buch, T., Hamann, S., Niebuhr, A., & Rossen, A. (2014). What makes cities attractive? The determinants of urban labour migration in Germany. Urban Studies, 51(9), 1960–1978.Google Scholar
  16. Christiaensen, L., & Todo, Y. (2014). Poverty reduction during the rural–urban transformation–the role of the missing middle. World Development, 63, 43–58.Google Scholar
  17. Debnath, R., & Amin, A. N. (2016). A geographic information system-based logical urban growth model for predicting spatial growth of an urban area. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 43(3), 580–597.Google Scholar
  18. Deshingkar, P., & Grimm, S. (2005). Internal migration and development: A global perspective (Vol. 19). New York: United Nations Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Ebrahim, S., Kinra, S., Bowen, L., Andersen, E., Ben-Shlomo, Y., Lyngdoh, T., et al. (2010). The effect of rural-to-urban migration on obesity and diabetes in India: A cross-sectional study. PLoS Medicine, 7(4), e1000268.Google Scholar
  20. Farhana, K. M., Rahman, S. A., & Rahman, M. (2012). Factors of migration in urban Bangladesh: An empirical study of poor migrants in Rajshahi city.Google Scholar
  21. Feldman, S. (2015). Bangladesh in 2014: Illusive democracy. Asian Survey, 55(1), 67–74.Google Scholar
  22. Ferdaush, J. (2015). The Urbanization of Dhaka City and the Sustainable Urban Development in Bangladesh. PhD thesis, Savannah State University.Google Scholar
  23. Giani, L. (2006). Migration and education: Child migrants in Bangladesh. Sussex Migration WorkingPaperno, 33.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, C. L., & Mueller, V. (2012). Natural disasters and population mobility in Bangladesh. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(16), 6000–6005.Google Scholar
  25. Hagen-Zanker, J. (2008). Why do people migrate? A review of the theoretical literature.Google Scholar
  26. Haggblade, S., Hazell, P., & Reardon, T. (2010). The rural non-farm economy: Prospects for growth and poverty reduction. World Development, 38(10), 1429–1441.Google Scholar
  27. Hahn, Y., Islam, A., Nuzhat, K., Smyth, R., Yang, H.-S., et al. (2015). Education, marriage and fertility: Long-term evidence from a female stipend program in Bangladesh. Melbourne: Monash University.Google Scholar
  28. Haque, R., & Rana, E. A. (2014). Urban youth delinquency: Proliferation of criminal gangs and neighbourhood violence in dhaka, Bangladesh.Google Scholar
  29. Harpham, T. (2009). Urban health in developing countries: What do we know and where do we go? Health & Place, 15(1), 107–116.Google Scholar
  30. Heath, R., & Mobarak, A. M. (2015). Manufacturing growth and the lives of Bangladeshi women. Journal of Development Economics, 115, 1–15.Google Scholar
  31. Hossain, M. (2001). Rural-urban migration in Bangladesh: A micro-level study. In Brazil IUSSP conference. August, (pp. 20–24).Google Scholar
  32. Hossain, S. (2005). Poverty, household strategies and coping with urban life: examining livelihood framework in Dhaka city, Bangladesh. Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology, 2(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  33. Hossain, S. (2013). Migration, urbanization and poverty in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (Hum.), 58(2), 369–382.Google Scholar
  34. Ishtiaque, A., & Mahmud, M. S. (2017). Migration objectives and their fulfillment: A micro study of the rural urban migrants of the slums of dhaka city. Geografia-Malaysian Journal of Society and Space, 7(4), 24–29.Google Scholar
  35. Ishtiaque, A., & Ullah, M. S. (2013). The influence of factors of migration on the migration status of rural-urban migrants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Human Geographies, 7(2), 45.Google Scholar
  36. Islam, M. M., & Azad, K. M. A. K. (2008). Rural–urban migration and child survival in urban Bangladesh: Are the urban migrants and poor disadvantaged? Journal of Biosocial Science, 40(1), 83–96.Google Scholar
  37. Islam, M. S., Rana, M. M. P., & Ahmed, R. (2014). Environmental perception during rapid population growth and urbanization: A case study of Dhaka city. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 16(2), 443–453.Google Scholar
  38. 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.Google Scholar
  39. Jamil, K., Streatfield, P. K., Arifeen, S., Angeles, G., Rahman, M., Ahsan, K. Z., et al. (2014). Bangladesh urban health survey 2013: Preliminary results. National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT), MEASURE Evaluation, UNC-Chapel Hill, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh (ICDDRB).Google Scholar
  40. Kamruzzaman, M., & Hakim, M. A. (2015). Child criminalization at slum areas in Dhaka city. American Journal of Psychology and Cognitive Science, 1(4), 107–111.Google Scholar
  41. Karim, K. R., Emmelin, M., Lindberg, L., & Wamala, S. (2016). Gender and women development initiatives in Bangladesh: A study of rural mother center. Social Work in Public Health, 31(5), 369–386.Google Scholar
  42. Kazlauskiene˙, A., & Rinkeviˇcius, L. (2006). Lithuanian brain drain causes: Push and pull factors. Engineering Economics, 46(1), 27–37.Google Scholar
  43. Khan, M. M., Kr¨amer, A., et al. (2009). Factors associated with being underweight, overweight and obese among ever-married non-pregnant urban women in Bangladesh. Singapore Medical Journal, 50(8), 804.Google Scholar
  44. Lall, S. V., & Selod, H. (2006). Rural-urban migration in developing countries: A survey of theoretical predictions and empirical findings (Vol. 3915). Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  45. Lu, Y. (2010). Rural-urban migration and health: Evidence from longitudinal data in indonesia. Social Science and Medicine, 70(3), 412–419.Google Scholar
  46. Lumley, T. (2011). Complex surveys: A guide to analysis using R (Vol. 565). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  47. Marshall, R., & Rahman, S. (2013). Internal migration in Bangladesh: character, drivers and policy issues. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York.Google Scholar
  48. Massey, D. S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Pellegrino, A., & Taylor, J. E. (1993). Theories of international migration: A review and appraisal. Population and Development Review, 19(3), 431–466.Google Scholar
  49. Mberu, B., Béguy, D., & Ezeh, A. C. (2017). Internal migration, urbanization and slums in sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa’s Population: In Search of a Demographic Dividend, (pp. 315–332). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  50. McClair, T. L., Hossain, T., Sultana, N., Burnett-Zieman, B., Yam, E. A., Hossain, S., et al. (2017). Paying for sex by young men who live on the streets in Dhaka city: Compounded sexual risk in a vulnerable migrant community. Journal of Adolescent Health, 60(2), S29–S34.Google Scholar
  51. Mohit, M. A. (2012). Bastee settlements of Dhaka city, Bangladesh: A review of policy approaches and challenges ahead. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 36, 611–622.Google Scholar
  52. Monem, M., & Muhammad, H. (2010). Higher education in Bangladesh: Status, issues and prospects. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences (PJSS), 30(2), 293–305.Google Scholar
  53. Morshed, N., Yorke, C., & Zhang, Q. (2017). Urban expansion pattern and land use dynamics in Dhaka, 1989–2014. The Professional Geographer, (pp. 1–16).Google Scholar
  54. Muhammad, A. (2011). Wealth and deprivation: Ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh. Economic and Political Weekly, (pp. 23–27.Google Scholar
  55. Mullick, M. S. I., & Goodman, R. (2005). The prevalence of psychiatric disorders among 5–10 year olds in rural, urban and slum areas in Bangladesh. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 40(8), 663–671.Google Scholar
  56. Muzzini, E., & Aparicio, G. (2013). Urban growth and spatial transition in Nepal: An initial assessment. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  57. Nguyen, L. D., Raabe, K., & Grote, U. (2015). Rural–urban migration, household vulnerability, and welfare in Vietnam. World Development, 71, 79–93.Google Scholar
  58. NIPORT, icddr,b, and UNC-Chapel Hill (2013). Bangladesh urban health survey 2013 final report., funded by USAID.
  59. Parveen, S. (2007). Gender awareness of rural women in Bangladesh. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 9(1), 253.Google Scholar
  60. Penning-Rowsell, E. C., Sultana, P., & Thompson, P. M. (2013). The last resort? Population movement in response to climate-related hazards in Bangladesh. Environmental Science & Policy, 27, S44–S59.Google Scholar
  61. Pramanik, M. M. A., & Stathakis, D. (2016). Forecasting urban sprawl in Dhaka city of Bangladesh. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 43(4), 756–771.Google Scholar
  62. Qiang, L. (2003). An analysis of push and pull factors in the migration of rural workers in china [j]. Social Sciences In China, 1, 125–136.Google Scholar
  63. Rahaman, M. M., & Ahmed, T. S. (2016). Affordable water pricing for slums dwellers in Dhaka metropolitan area: The case of three slums. Journal of Water Resource Engineering and Management, 3(1), 15–33.Google Scholar
  64. Rahman, H. Z. (2014). Urbanization in Bangladesh: challenges and priorities. In Bangladesh Economists Forum. June, (pp. 21–22).Google Scholar
  65. Rahman, M. H., & Siddiqui, S. A. (2015). Female rmg worker: Economic contribution in Bangladesh. International Journal of Science and Research Publications, 5, 9.Google Scholar
  66. Rana, M. M. P. (2011). Urbanization and sustainability: Challenges and strategies for sustainable urban development in Bangladesh. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 13(1), 237–256.Google Scholar
  67. Randolph, G. F., & Naik, M. (2017). An analysis of migrant-intensity in India and Indonesia: Seeing internal migration patterns through a place-based lens. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 8(1), 40–58.Google Scholar
  68. Rouf, M. A., & Jahan, S. (2007). Spatial and temporal patterns of urbanization in Bangladesh. Urbanization in Bangladesh: patterns, issues and approaches to planning. Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Dhaka, (pp. 1–24).Google Scholar
  69. Santos, M. (2017). The shared space: The two circuits of the urban economy in underdeveloped countries. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  70. Seto, K. C. (2011). Exploring the dynamics of migration to mega-delta cities in Asia and Africa: Contemporary drivers and future scenarios. Global Environmental Change, 21, S94–S107.Google Scholar
  71. Seto, K. C., S´anchez-Rodr´ıguez, R., & Fragkias, M. (2010). The new geography of contemporary urbanization and the environment. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 35, 167–194.Google Scholar
  72. Sharma, M., & Zaman, H. (2013). Who migrates overseas and is it worth their while? An assessment of household survey data from Bangladesh. The Journal of Developing Areas, 47(1), 281–302.Google Scholar
  73. Simini, F., González, M. C., Maritan, A., & Barabási, A.-L. (2012). A universal model for mobility and migration patterns. Nature, 484(7392), 96–100.Google Scholar
  74. Streatfield, P. K., & Karar, Z. A. (2008). Population challenges for Bangladesh in the coming decades. Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition, 26(3), 261.Google Scholar
  75. Tacoli, C., McGranahan, G., & Satterthwaite, D. (2015). Urbanisation, rural-urban migration and urban poverty. London: IIED London.Google Scholar
  76. Thu Le, H., & Booth, A. L. (2014). Inequality in Vietnamese urban–rural living standards, 1993–2006. Review of Income and Wealth, 60(4), 862–886.Google Scholar
  77. Ullah, A. A. (2004). Bright city lights and slums of Dhaka city: Determinants of rural-urban migration in Bangladesh. Migration Letters, 1(1), 26.Google Scholar
  78. United Nations (2014). World urbanization prospects: The 2014 revision. Population division, United Nations. ISBN 978-92-1-151517-6.Google Scholar
  79. Upton, G. J. (2016). Categorical data analysis by example. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  80. VanderEnde, K. E., Sibley, L. M., Cheong, Y. F., Naved, R. T., & Yount, K. M. (2015). Community economic status and intimate partner violence against women in Bangladesh: Compositional or contextual effects? Violence Against Women, 21(6), 679–699.Google Scholar
  81. World Bank (2016). Helping Bangladesh Reach Middle Income Country Status. Retrieved November 28, 2017, from http://www.worldbankorg/en/news/feature/2016/04/07/World_Bank_Group_s_New_Country_Partnership_Framework_helps_Bangladesh_Reach_Middle_Income_Country_Status.
  82. World Health Organization. (2000). The world health report 2000: Health systems: Improving performance. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  83. Young, A. (2013). Inequality, the urban-rural gap, and migration. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128(4), 1727–1785.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  2. 2.School of Agricultural, Computational and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Southern QueenslandDarling Heights, ToowoombaAustralia
  3. 3.College of Nursing, Midwifery and HealthcareUniversity of West LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations