Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 659-685

First online:

Increasing Migration, Diverging Communities: Changing Character of Migrant Streams in Rural Thailand

  • Filiz GaripAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Harvard University Email author 
  • , Sara CurranAffiliated withHenry M. Jackson School of International Studies and Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington

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This paper studies how increasing migration changes the character of migrant streams in sending communities. Cumulative causation theory posits that past migration patterns determine future flows, as prior migrants provide resources, influence, or normative pressures that make individuals more likely to migrate. The theory implies exponentially increasing migration flows that are decreasingly selective. Recent research identifies heterogeneity in the cumulative patterns and selectivity of migration in communities. We propose that this heterogeneity may be explained by individuals’ differential access to previously accumulated migration experience. Multi-level, longitudinal data from 22 rural Thai communities allow us to measure the distribution of past experience as a proxy for its accessibility to community members. We find that migration becomes a less-selective process as migration experience accumulates, and migrants become increasingly diverse in socio-demographic characteristics. Yet, selectivity within migrant streams persists if migration experience is not uniformly distributed among, and hence not equally accessible to, all community members. The results confirm that the accumulation and distribution of prior migrants’ experiences distinctly shape future migration flows, and may lead to diverging cumulative patterns in communities over time.


Internal migration Cumulative causation Selectivity Thailand