Among the sociological approaches the most important is the structural –functional approach. It focuses on migration as one of the integrated social processes and as an integral part of the larger social system. It is the society that provides a social context to migration and makes the process of migration socially conditioned. The socio-structural and cultural conditions affect the process of migration and in turn are affected by the process. Thus the movement of population becomes an institutionally and normatively or culturally determined phenomenon. Its occurrence depends on institutional suitability. For example the rapid process of spatial mobility of population, particularly the long distance migration is institutionally or structurally and culturally suitable for and consistent with the urban industrial society while the immobility or the slow process of spatial mobility is structurally consistent with the traditional rural agrarian society.
There are some specific sociological formulations within the fold of this approach that are significant for the study of migration. The Parsonian paradigm of pattern variables provides a guideline for an analysis of mobility and immobility of a population. In Parson's scheme of variables the effectively and effective-neutrality value components showing a paradigm shift from tradition to modernity has a bearing on migration. It explains the social conditions under which the movement of population is active or inactive. Social attachment restricts the mobility of population. Yet it serves as a force to consolidate and reinforce the existing institutional patterns and the network of relationship. It is through institutional consolidation that effectivity becomes a barrier in the spatial mobility of a population. As soon as the effectivity is changed into effective neutrality and impersonal attachment the spatial mobility of the population are accelerated. Thus the Parsonian formulation provides a theoretical basis to examine the process of migration from a sociological point.
The theories of social stratification also provide another viewpoint on migration. They focus on the social class character of the society and highlight various tendencies of the social class. A class tends to maintain itself and the same time it tends to optimize gratification through spatial and vertical patterns of mobility. These social class tendencies have a bearing on the process of migration because they focus on the social class character of the process of mobility. The class component functions as a push factor at the source to move out for gratification of motives through improvement in the social status. The class factor also functions as a pull factor to hold the people together and does not allow them to move out from the place of residence. The class factor promotes spatial mobility from the source and develops adjustment and adaptation at the destination.
Various theories of social change and modernization in sociology also provide different viewpoints on migration. The culturological approaches have special significance in this regard because of their emphasis on a cultural basis of change and transformation. They assume that culture is the cause and effect of social change. In this frame of reference migration is considered a cultural change. It is both the cause and consequence of the cultural basis of spatial migration. The caste, class and related cultural bases of spatial disparities in income, resources, opportunities and associated styles of life, difference in value orientations of the people towards rural and urban styles of work and work subcultures. The act of migration affects these cultural factors. They are the push as well as pull factors of migration. There are cultural causes of migration at the source and cultural consequences of migration at the destination.
Among the sociological approaches the theory of social evolution provides another viewpoint on migration and social change. The theory assumes that the society is inherently unstable in the homogenous form and pushes it to move in a linear evolutionary direction of social change. This model consists of a series of universal laws of progress focusing on the evolution of the society from homogeneity to heterogeneity and multiformity. In this process of uniliear direction of social transformation every component of the system tends to change adjust each other in an integrated form and evolves into a higher social form.
In this process the society also evolves demographically through a spatial movement of the population and changes in other demographic components. In Durkheim's social evolution migration is a necessary social condition to push the process of social evolution from one type of social order or another. The active movement of population pushes the society to evolve from simple, segmental and mechanical society to a complex structurally differentiated interdependent and organically well-knit society with an elaborate division of labor.
The economic and sociological viewpoints are the two broad perspectives on migration. They show that migration is a complex and multivariate phenomenon. A single variate explanation of migration as viewed by economists is a limited viewpoint. Sociologists view migration in a holistic perspective that is inclusive of the economic viewpoints. The socio-economic and cultural milieu of the village itself and its wider social environment explain the out migration from a village.
The sociological approaches provide a social context to the text of migration but the relationship between the context and the text is not a simple relationship. The social context of migration derived from various theoretical approaches consists of economic, social, cultural, demographic, developmental and physiological factors of migration.