Academic journal article Demographic Research

Circular Migration Patterns and Determinants in Nairobi Slum Settlements

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Circular Migration Patterns and Determinants in Nairobi Slum Settlements

Article excerpt


This paper measures migration flows and determinants in two slum settlements in Nairobi City between 2003 and 2007. The results confirm the high intensity of migration with a quarter of the total slum population and a third of those aged 15-30 being renewed annually. A circular migration system is at play whereby the majority of slum dwellers are short-term migrants spending on average less than 3 years in the area. Migration is more intense during early adulthood (20-24), and despite very similar determinants across gender, mobility is more intense among women compared to men. The increasing feminization of migration is likely to change the face of slum settlements, resulting in more balanced sex ratios, in line with city-wide trends in Nairobi over the past half century. The high population turnover is due to the insecurity of livelihoods, tenure, and poor basic amenities and social services in slum settlements.

1. Introduction

During the past three decades, significant evidence has been derived concerning migrant characteristics, migration patterns, and the major causes (as well as consequences) that push or pull individuals from rural areas into cities in sub-Saharan Africa (Adepoju 1990, 1995; Oucho 1998; Oucho and Gould 1993; Potts 1995, 2000; Todaro 1969). While past research has given significant insight into migration processes among migrants living in urban areas as a whole, the specific case of migrants living in the rapidly growing urban slum settlements is poorly documented. Estimates by UN-Habitat (2003) show that in sub-Saharan Africa, about 72% of urban residents live in slums or slum-like conditions. Slum settlements are characterized by make-shift housing, congestion, high levels of unemployment, social fragmentation, high levels of migration, and poor environmental sanitation, health, security, and other social services. Despite the limited economic opportunities in most urban centres in general, and in slum settlements in particular, many migrants continue to flock there in search of jobs and other livelihood opportunities.

Although there has been growing concern among policy makers and development partners to address the appalling living conditions in the slum settlements, little is known about the general patterns of migration and what factors attract or push people out of the slum settlements. This paper takes advantage of rich longitudinal data collected under the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System (NUHDSS) between 2003 and 2007 among residents of Korogocho and Viwandani slum settlements in Nairobi city in order to assess the patterns and determinants of both in and out-migration. Thus, unlike many studies that rely on proxy indicators of slum-like characteristics to estimate people living in slum settlements, our study is unique because we used data collected from actual dwellers of two slum settlements in the city. Longitudinal data are well suited for understanding demographic trends and their drivers, particularly in teasing out causal relationships between migration and other demographic parameters such as fertility and mortality (Collinson et al. 2009b; Kubaje et al. 2009; Nhacolo et al. 2009). Understanding migration patterns and dynamics of slum dwellers is also vital in determining how social and health policies should be adapted to the needs of a highly mobile population.

Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, provides a good example of the massive development challenge that rapidly growing African cities are facing. Despite the decline in employment opportunities associated with the economic downturn in Kenya from the 1980s, Nairobi has remained an attractive destination for many migrants as the major labour market in Kenya. Nairobi's population grew at a constant rate of about 5% per year between 1969 and 1999. About 80% of Nairobi residents aged 25-59 are migrants and half of them came to Nairobi between 17 and 23 years of age (Bocquier et al. …

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