Push-Pull Factors

Cairo, Egypt
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In geographical terms, the push-pull factors are those that drive people away from a place and draw people to a new location. Oftentimes, a combination of these push-pull factors is what help determine migration or immigration of particular populations from one land to another.

Push factors are oftentimes forceful, demanding that a certain person or group of people leave one country for another, or at least give that person or people cause to want to move--either because of a threat of violence or financial security. Pull factors, on the other hand, are often beneficial elements of a new country that encourages people to immigrate there in order to seek a better life.

These factors are considered to be diametrically opposed, on opposite ends of the spectrum, though they are often both used in tandem when a population or person is considering migrating to a new location.

Push Factors: Reasons to Leave

Any number of detrimental factors can be considered push factors, which essentially force a population or person from one country to seek refuge in another, better country. These conditions which drive people to leave their homes can include bullying, a sub-standard level of living, food, land or job scarcity, famine or drought, political or religious persecution, pollution, or even natural disasters.

Although all push factors don't require a person to leave a country, these conditions that contribute to a person leaving are often so dire that if they do not choose to leave, they will suffer financially, emotionally or physically. 

Populations with refugee statuses are the among the most affected by push factors in a country or region. This is typically due to the fact that these populations are faced with genocide-like conditions in their country of origin; usually because of authoritarian governments or populations opposed to religious or ethnic groups. Some examples include Syrians, Jews during the Holocaust, or African American during and immediately following the Civil War era in the United States.

Pull Factors: Reasons to Migrate

Antithetically, pull factors are those that help a person or population determine why relocating to a new country would provide the most benefit. These factors attract populations to a new place largely because of what the country provides that was not available to them in their country of origin.

A promise of freedom from religious or political persecution, availability of career opportunities or cheap land, or abundance of food could be considered pull factors for migrating to a new country. In each of these cases, a population will have more opportunity to pursue a better life compared to its home country.

When the Great Famine of 1845 to 1852 wiped out large swaths of the Irish and English population due to the shortage of available foods, residents of the countries began seeking new homes that would provide enough pull factors in the form of food availability to justify relocation.

However, because of​ the direness of the push factor of famine, the bar for what qualified as a pull factor in terms of food availability was set much lower for refugees seeking new homes.