The gravity model of migration: The successful comeback of an ageing superstar in regional science

Jacques Poot, Omoniyi Alimi, Michael P. Cameron, David C. Maré

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


For at least half a century, and building on observations first made a century earlier, the gravity model has been the most commonly-used paradigm for understanding gross migration flows between regions. This model owes its success to, firstly, its intuitive consistency with migration theories; secondly, ease of estimation in its simplest form; and, thirdly, goodness of fit in most applications. While fitting gravity models of aggregate migration flows started taking backstage to microdata analysis in the 1980s, a recent comeback has resulted from increasing applications to international migration and from the emergence of statistical theories appropriate for studying spatial interaction. In this paper we review the status quo and argue for greater integration of internal and international migration modelling. Additionally we revisit the issues of parameter stability and distance deterrence measurement by means of a New Zealand case study. We argue that gravity modelling of migration has a promising future in a multi-regional stochastic population projection system —an area in which the model has been to date surprisingly underutilised. We conclude with outlining current challenges and opportunities in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-86
Number of pages24
JournalInvestigaciones Regionales
Issue number36Specialissue
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Distance deterrence measurement
  • Gravity model
  • Migration flows
  • Parameter stability
  • Spatial interaction

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The gravity model of migration: The successful comeback of an ageing superstar in regional science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this