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This study disentangles the concept of relative deprivation by distinguishing feelings of individual and collective relative deprivation as sources of individual aspirations. Both concepts are then operationalised and empirically tested with regard to their relative importance in migration decision-making. Based on data from the National Sample Survey in 2008, two factors turn out to be relevant in understanding the Indian migration pattern. First, individual and collective relative deprivations are both strong predictors for out-migration, but only for short-distance, intra-state movements. The likelihood of out-migration towards international destinations is significantly higher for households with lower levels of individual and collective relative deprivation. Second, leaving aside the effects of relative deprivation, absolute deprivation plays a rather ambivalent role: while economically better-off households have a higher propensity for sending (primarily male) migrants to distant inter-state and international destinations, shorter distance out-migration is mainly dominated by female migrants stemming from poorer households.

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Journal article


Asian Population Studies

Publication Date



8 (2)


125 - 149

Total pages



relative deprivation, internal and international migration, India