Mobility Transition Model by Wilbur Zelinsky

Wilbur Zelinsky propounded the mobility transition model of migration in 1971. He analyzed the migration behavior of people in correspondence with Demographic Transition Model. Previous models like Ravenstein’s Laws, Lee’s Intervening Obstacles and Stouffer’s Intervening Opportunities etc. only analyzed process of migration as a result of constant pull and push between places. Whereas, Zelinsky’s model adjust according to the stage of economic and demographic development.

Basic Idea behind Mobility Transition Model

  • Basically, this model argues that the demographic condition and migratory patterns are related to level of urbanization, industrialization and modernization.
  • Zelinsky observed that migration takes place at different scales i.e. international, regional, rural to urban etc. People migrate at various scales given the different stages of demographic transition, economic development and progress in modes of transport.

Stages of Mobility Transition Model

The model shows the volume of migration at four different scales through five stages of demographic transition. Therefore, this model can be used to estimate future pattern of migration.

Fig. 1-4: Stages of Different Types of Migration by Zelinskly

1st Stage of Mobility Transition Model

  • In the first stage, migration of people from one place to another is very less.
  • The total size of population is small due to high Death and Birth Rate.
  • Economies were primarily based on Hunting, Gathering and Agriculture. The exchange of goods and services is also local.
  • The modes of transport are primitive.
  • The migration takes place as Daily Trips.

2nd Stage of Mobility Transition Model

  • In this stage, the economic activities grow fast.
  • The need of raw material for production and markets for sale of finished goods leads to increase in trade.
  • Improvement in medical facilities leads to the decline in death rate and expansion of population size.
  • Therefore, new regions are explored for settlement within and outside country.
  • Ultimately international and regional migration booms (Fig.1 & 2).
  • Rural to Urban and Urban to Urban migration picks up but Urban-Urban migration is very low.

3rd Stage of Mobility Transition Model

  • The gap between death and birth rate leads to fast growth of population.
  • Economic activities boom.
  • International migration slows down due to barriers such as visa restrictions.
  • Regional migration is migration within the country. Regional migration peaks (Fig.2) and then declines due to lack of further expansion of population.
  • Rural to Urban migration peaks (Fig.3).

4th Stage of Mobility Transition Model

  • Population becomes stable due to low birth and death rate.
  • Economy booms further and leads to high level of per-capita income.
  • Nations impose more restrictions on cross-border migration to avoid over-crowding of their country. Hence, international migration declines (Fig. 1).
  • Rural to Urban migration starts to decline (Fig. 3).
  • Urban to Urban migration picks up (Fig. 4). People migrate from smaller city to larger city for better opportunities.

5th Stage of Mobility Transition Model

  • Economy becomes highly developed.
  • The direction of population growth is unexpected in this stage.
  • Public and private modes of transport becomes very fast which leads to very high level of Commuting to and from city (Fig. 5).
  • The commuting or circulation also absorbs some of the permanent migration (Fig. 6).
  • Only urban to urban migration takes place (Fig. 4).
  • Certain population need not migrate due to nature of their work and progress in technology. For instance, the workers of Information Technology firms can work from their own city or Work from Home culture using internet and computers (Fig. 7).

How Mobility Transition Model is Relevant in India?


It can concluded from the above discussion in all the stages of demographic transition that:

  • The economic condition improves from first to fifth stage.
  • The modes of transport become faster as the economic condition improves.
  • Population grows fast initially but stabilizes as we move from stage 1 to stage 5.
  • Firstly, international migration increases due to absence of nation states.
  • Secondly, regional or frontier-ward migration increases.
  • Thirdly, rural-urban migration increases.
  • Fourthly, urban-urban migration increases.
  • Ultimately, people start Commuting to and from the places of their work as transport becomes faster and efficient.