Studies have pointed out that rural poverty and the lack of opportunities in rural areas are the central push factors of mass level rural to urban population. The rural poverty alone accounts for about 69% migration from the rural to the centers of better opportunities. The poverty and the plight of the village life in India exerts a stronger social pressure on the motive of migration.
A large number of rural populations particularly the landless agricultural labors live on subsistence level. The incidence of landless and near landless in the total rural labour force is quite high in India. It is this section of population that is an out migration section in all the states due to poverty and economic compulsions. Their act of migration is an economic act.
There are multiple reasons that cause the rural people to move out from low –productivity, low income, labor-surplus, poverty stricken and insecure source regions of primary sector to high productivity, high income, labor based and affluent destination areas of secondary and tertiary sectors.
According to Ravenstein the volume of migrants who have moved out from the rural to the urban areas or from the backward to the developed regions is the highest in the economic category of reason except the accidental category of female marriage migration. However the economic disparity existing in the rural and urban areas of different regions and states is a function of social inequality that to a great extent regulates economic inequality in the Indian society. It is the social inequality through the economic inequality that indirectly determines the volume of rural to urban migration.
Further the state-wise distribution of migrants shows that Bihar, UP, Orissa and Kerala account for the largest number of male out-migration for the reason of employment alone. The state of Bihar and UP alone share one/third of the interstate out-migration in India.
The class selective migration from rural areas takes place from both the economically rich and the poor,the landed and the landless,the privilieged and the deprived and the haves and the have-nots.These are two uneven classes in terms of socio-economic resources.They move out according to their class based motives of migration. The influx of movement of population is comparatively more from the poorer classes and the social bases of economic inequality is the underlaying factor of migration. The economic factor functions as the intermediate variable in migration.
The rich landowners get richer by the surplus they extract from the existing pattern of agricultural economy and by their access to land, new means of cultivation and to the governmental institutions. The poor landless workers on the other hand get poorer and are forced by their vulnerability to move out to work. The marginal and small farmers who can neither easily afford modern methods of cultivation nor have sufficient access to land, resources and governmental facilities get encouraged to sell their land and move towards urban areas for better opportunities and non-agricultural jobs.
The high man-land ratio in rural areas is another factor of migration. It aggravates rural poverty and promotes surplus labor. In the situation of unequal distribution of resources more children, higher dependency ratio, larger family size and surplus manpower are the problems faced by poor who are under greater social pressure of these problems. The increased work force among them is unable to get absorbed on land that has limited quantity and productivity. The nature of the owner-labor relationship is exploitative. The traditional system of farming yields low income from agricultural work and leads to poor conditions of living. In such a situation surplus labor and high man-land ratio become additional push factors of migration.