Conference on the Gender Ratios of International and Internal Migrants

Awarded Scholars:
Trent Alexander, University of Minnesota
Bianet Castellanos, University of Minnesota
Project Date:
May 2008
Award Amount:
Project Programs:

Until the 1980s, few studies challenged the gender ratio “law of migration” set forth by E. G. Ravenstein in the late nineteenth century. Examining British censuses of 1871 and 1881, Ravenstein stated that within-country moves were usually dominated by women while between-country moves were dominated by men. Researchers continued to reiterate Ravenstein’s law throughout most of the twentieth century, until the U.S. Department of Labor finally released a study in 1984 documenting a “remarkable shift” in the gender ratio of migrants. The United Nations’ 2006 State of World Population echoed this report, revealing that women now constitute nearly half of all international migrants throughout the world. Yet the policy implications of this shift—and how existing policies have facilitated it—remain relatively unknown and understudied.


Emphasizing patterns of migration and geographical variation, Donna Gabaccia, Trent Alexander, and Bianet Castellanos (all of the University of Minnesota) will analyze the gender migration shift and identify the relevant policy implications. With this award, the investigators will convene a conference of international experts with three sessions. Each session will have a specific theme: gendered migration patterns and trends, the geography of sending and receiving countries, and the role of nations and states in shaping gendered migration flows. The investigators’ access to the Minnesota Population Center (MPC), which houses censuses conducted in over thirty countries from 1850 to 2000, will facilitate discussion in the first session, which will concentrate on changes in gender migration over time.The investigators are also analyzing spatio-temporal data through the MPC, measuring the distance between locations of origin and receiving destinations. The second session will focus on this new analysis and the relationship between migration distance and gender, and also examine how local and national policies affect mobility among male and female migrants. The third session will consider the effects of national policies on gender migration ratios as well as the policy and research implications of the shifting gender ratios for nations and states.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.