Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

Color photograph of hundreds of tents. The tents are constructed of a variety of cloths of many different colors and are placed very close to one another. A handful of people are visible in the foreground of the image.
Figure 10.1 Refugees are people who have been forced out of their homelands for various reasons. This is a camp in Haiti that arose after the 2010 earthquake. An estimated 1.5 million people were displaced after this catastrophic event. (credit: “Military Relief Efforts in Haiti After Devastating” by Fred W. Baker III/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

The word migration is likely to bring to mind a stereotype familiar to American culture: people voluntarily coming into another country in search of work and other opportunities. Yet this is only one aspect of the meaning of migration as understood by anthropologists. Migration, put simply, is movement from one place to another that reestablishes a household, either permanently or temporarily. Examples of migration include seasonal movements in search of work, temporary movements due to a crisis or local challenges, transnational movements from one nation to another, and even occasional moves from one household to another over a lifetime (sometimes referred to as internal versus external migration). Migrants, by extension, are simply people who move. Other than those relatively few people who are living in the same house they were born into, we are all migrants of one sort or another. Within this larger category of migrants, immigrants are individuals who move permanently from one country (where they are referred to as emigrants) to another country (where they are called immigrants).

The human species, along with our ancestors, has practiced migration from our earliest origins. It is part of who we are. Most living species migrate in some way, but humans move more widely than other species and modify the landscape the most through their movements. Human migration impacts the world in innumerable ways.

Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Dec 20, 2023 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.