Internal Migration in Vietnam, 2002–2012

Part of the Population Economics book series (POPULATION)


We investigate determinants of individual migration decisions in Vietnam, a country with increasingly high levels of geographical labour mobility. Using data from the Vietnam Household Living Standards Survey 2012 (VHLSS2012), we find that the probability of migration is strongly associated with individual, household and community-level characteristics. The probability of migration is higher for young people and those with post-secondary education. Migrants are more likely to be from households with better-educated household heads, female-headed households, and households with higher youth dependency ratios. Members of ethnic minority groups are much less likely to migrate, other things being equal. Using multinomial logit methods, we distinguish migration by broad destination, and find that those moving to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi have broadly similar characteristics and drivers of migration as those moving to other destinations. We also use the VHLSS2012 together with the VHLSS2010, which allows us to focus on a narrow cohort of recent migrants—those present in the household in 2010, but who had moved away by 2012. This yields much tighter results. For education below upper secondary school, the evidence on positive selection by education is much stronger. However, the ethnic minority “penalty” on spatial labor mobility remains strong and significant, even after controlling for specific characteristics of households and communes. This lack of mobility is a leading candidate to explain the distinctive persistence of poverty among Vietnam’s ethnic minority populations, even as national poverty has sharply diminished.


Migration Migration decision Remittances Household survey Vietnam 

JEL Classification

O15 R23 I32 



The authors thank John Giles and Hai-Anh Dang (World Bank), and Amy Liu and Xin Meng (Australian National University) for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. We are also grateful to participants in a seminar in the IPAG Business School, Paris, France, and participants in the conference ‘Study of Rural–Urban Migration in Vietnam with Insights from China and Indonesia’ (Hanoi, Vietnam, January 2015) for helpful comments on earlier drafts.


  1. Ackah, C., & Medvedev, D. (2012). Internal migration in Ghana: Determinants and welfare impacts. International Journal of Social Economics, 39(10), 764–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Acosta, P., Calderon, C., Fajnzylber, P., & Lopez, H. (2007). What is the impact of international remittances on poverty and inequality in Latin America? World Development, 36(1), 89–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams, J. R., & Page, J. (2005). Do international migration and remittances reduce poverty in developing countries? World Development, 33, 1645–1669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borjas, G. J. (2005). Labor economics (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill/Irwin.Google Scholar
  5. Cheng, S., & Long, J. S. (2007). Testing for IIA in the multinomial logit model. Sociological Methods & Research, 35(4), 583–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coxhead, I., & Shrestha, R. (2017). Globalization and school–work choices in an emerging economy: Vietnam. Asian Economic Papers, 16(2), 28–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cu, C. L. (2005). Rural to urban migration in Vietnam. In H. H. Thanh & S. Sakata (Eds.), Impact of socio-economic changes on the livelihoods of people living in poverty in Vietnam. Tokyo: Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization.Google Scholar
  8. Dahl, M. S., & Sorenson, O. (2010). The social attachment to place. Social Forces, 89(2), 633–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dang, N. A. (1999). Market reforms and internal labor migration in Vietnam. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 8(3), 381–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dang, N. A. (2001a). Migration in Vietnam: Theoretical approaches and evidence from a survey. Hanoi: Transport Communication Publishing House.Google Scholar
  11. Dang, N. A. (2001b). Rural labor out-migration in Vietnam: A multi-level analysis. In Migration in Vietnam: Theoretical approaches and evidence from a survey. Hanoi: Transport Communication Publishing House.Google Scholar
  12. Dang, N. A., & Nguyen, T. L. (2006). Vietnam migration survey 2004 internal migration and related life course events. Mimeo. Hanoi: VASS.Google Scholar
  13. Dang, A., Goldstein, S., & McNally, J. W. (1997). Internal migration and development in Vietnam. International Migration Review, 31(2), 312–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dang, N. A., Tackle, C., & Hoang, X. T. (2003). Migration in Vietnam: A review of information on current trends and patterns, and their policy implications. Paper presented at the Regional Conference on Migration, Development and Pro-Poor Policy Choices in Asia, 22–24 June 2003, Dhaka, Bangladesh.Google Scholar
  15. Davies, P. S., Greenwood, M. J., & Li, H. (2001). A conditional logit approach to US state-to-state migration. Journal of Regional Science, 41, 337–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deb, P., & Seck, P. (2009). Internal migration, selection bias and human development: Evidence from Indonesia and Mexico. MPRA Paper No. 19214.
  17. Djamba, Y., Goldstein, S., & Goldstein, A. (1999). Permanent and temporary migration in Vietnam during a period of economic change. Asia-Pacific Migration Journal, 14(3), 25–28.Google Scholar
  18. Etzo, I. (2010). Determinants of inter-regional migration flows in Italy: A panel data analysis. MPRA Paper No. 26245.Google Scholar
  19. Feng, S., Oppenheimer, M., & Schlenker, W. (2012). Climate change, crop yields and internal migration in the United States. NBER Working Paper No. 17734.Google Scholar
  20. Fukase, E. (2013). Foreign job opportunities and internal migration in Vietnam. Policy Research Working Paper Series No. 6420, The World Bank.Google Scholar
  21. General Statistics Office (GSO), & United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (2005). Vietnam migration survey 2004: Major findings. Hanoi: Statistical Publishing House.Google Scholar
  22. Guest, P. (1998). The dynamics of internal migration in Vietnam. UNDP Discussion Paper 1, Hanoi.Google Scholar
  23. Harris, J. R., & Todaro, M. P. (1970). Migration, unemployment and development: A two-sector analysis. American Economic Review, 60(1), 126–142.Google Scholar
  24. Haughton, J. (2010). Urban poverty assessment in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. Hanoi: United Nations Development Program. Scholar
  25. Huynh, T. H., & Walter, N. (2012). Push and pull forces and migration in Vietnam. MPRA Paper 39559, University Library of Munich, Germany.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, K., & Cohen, J. E. (2010). Determinants of international migration flows to and from industrialized countries: A panel data approach beyond gravity. International Migration Review, 44(4), 899–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kompas, T., Che, T. N., Nguyen, H. Q., & Nguyen, H. T. M. (2012). Productivity, net returns and efficiency: Land and market reform in Vietnamese rice production. Land Economics, 88(3), 478–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kozel, V. (Ed.). (2014). Well begun but not yet done: Progress and emerging challenges for poverty reduction in Vietnam. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.Google Scholar
  29. Labor Newspaper. (2008). Exporting labor. Labor Union of Ho Chi Minh City, 11 November 2008 (in Vietnamese).Google Scholar
  30. Marx, V., & Fleischer, K. (2010). Internal migration: Opportunities and challenges for socio-economic development in Vietnam. Hanoi: UNDP.Google Scholar
  31. Mayda, A. (2007). International migration: A panel data analysis of the determinants of bilateral flows. CReAM Discussion Paper No. 07/07. London: Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.Google Scholar
  32. McCaig, B., & Pavcnik, N. (2013). Moving out of agriculture: Structural change in Vietnam. NBER Working Paper No. 19616.Google Scholar
  33. McFadden, D. (1974). Conditional logit analysis of qualitative choice behavior. In P. Zarembka (Ed.), Frontiers of econometrics. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  34. McKenzie, D., & Sasin, M. J. (2007). Migration, remittances, poverty, and human capital: Conceptual and empirical challenges. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4272. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  35. Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA). (2009). Dê án he thông an sinh xã hoi v_i dân c nông thôn giai đoan 2011–2020. Draft report. Hanoi: Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.Google Scholar
  36. Molloy, R., Smith, C. L., & Wozniak, A. (2011). Internal migration in the United States. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25(3), 173–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nguyen, H. L., & Mont, D. (2010). Vietnam’s regulatory, institutional and governance structure for cross-border labor migration. Working Paper.Google Scholar
  38. Nguyen, T. P., Tran, N. T. M. T., Nguyen, T. N., & Oostendorp, R. (2008). Determinants and impacts of migration in Vietnam. Depocen Working Paper Series No. 2008/01, Hanoi.Google Scholar
  39. Nguyen, V. C., Van den Berg, M., & Lensink, R. (2011). The impact of work and non-work migration on household welfare, poverty and inequality. The Economics of Transition, 19(4), 771–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nguyen, L., Raabe, K., & Grote, U. (2015). Rural–Urban migration, household vulnerability, and welfare in Vietnam. World Development, 71, 79–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nguyen-Hoang, P., & McPeak, J. G. (2010). Leaving or staying: Inter-provincial migration in Vietnam. Asia and Pacific Migration Journal, 19(4), 473–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Niimi, Y., Pham, T., & Rilly, B. (2009). Determinants of remittances: Recent evidence using data on internal migrants in Vietnam. Asian Economic Journal, 23(1), 19–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oxfam and ActionAid. (2012). Participatory monitoring of urban poverty in Viet Nam: Five-year synthesis report (2008–2012). Hanoi: Oxfam and ActionAid.Google Scholar
  44. Pham, H. V., MacAulay, G., & Marsh, S. (2007). The economics of land fragmentation in the north of Vietnam. Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 51(2), 195–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Phan, D. (2012). Migration and credit constraints: Theory and evidence from Vietnam. Review of Development Economics, 16(1), 31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Phan, D., & Coxhead, I. (2010). Interprovincial migration and inequality during Vietnam’s transition. Journal of Development Economics, 91(1), 100–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sjaastad, L. A. (1962). The costs and returns of human migration. Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stark, O. (1991). The migration of labour. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Stark, O., & Bloom, D. (1985). The new economics of labor migration. American Economic Review, 75, 173–178.Google Scholar
  50. Stark, O., & Taylor, J. (1991). Migration incentives, migration types: The role of relative deprivation. The Economic Journal, 101, 1163–1178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tu, T. A., Thang, D. N., & Trung, H. X. (2008). Migration to competing destinations and off-farm employment in rural Vietnam: A conditional logit analysis. Working Paper 22. Vietnam: Development and Policies Research Center (DEPOCEN).Google Scholar
  52. Valencia, J. (2008). Migration and its determinants: A study of two communities in Colombia. Atlantic Economic Journal, 36(2), 247–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Applied EconomicsUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Mekong Development Research InstituteNational Economics UniversityHanoiVietnam
  3. 3.Vietnam-Japan UniversityHanoiVietnam

Personalised recommendations