Gender and the "Laws Of Migration": A Reconsideration of Nineteenth-Century Patterns

Trent Alexander, University of Minnesota
Annemarie Steidl, University of Vienna

Scholars in many disciplines have observed that men historically outnumbered women among international movers. Among internal migrants, however, the picture has never been so clear. E.G. Ravenstein's influential "laws of migration" argued that short-distance and within-country moves were typically dominated by women. Focusing on internal migration, our paper uses new census microdata to take a fresh look at the relationship between gender and geographic mobility in nineteenth-century Europe and North America. We argue that there was a significant flaw in the analysis that led Ravenstein to his conclusions about gender and migration, and that this flaw has implications for more recent studies of the long-term "feminization of migration." Whereas Ravenstein relied on published summary tables from the 1881 British census, our analysis uses complete-count individual-level data from that census, as well as similar data from the United States and Norway during the same period.

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Presented in Session 139: Historical Demography