A classic re-examined: Zelinsky's hypothesis of the mobility transition

Ronald Skeldon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper examines the contribution of Zelinsky's hypothesis of the mobility transition to research in migration studies over the almost 50 years since its publication in 1971. The transition is placed in the changing contexts of thinking in migration studies of the time and argues that after an initial flurry, followed by a period in the wilderness, it has emerged to guide a new interest in comparative studies on migration. The transition provides a flexible framework that can be modified to give context to the evidence emerging from a number of recent studies that are briefly outlined. Rather than an inflexible linear model, the hypothesis provides scope to incorporate multiple pathways of changing patterns of migration through time and across space. As important, however, has been its role in providing inspiration to guide generations of researchers in migration studies. The transition itself and modern empirical evidence suggest that despite the current concerns about migration, the world is becoming less migratory but more mobile, contradictory though this might at first appear.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-403
Number of pages10
JournalMigration Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019




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