Working Paper

Internal borders and migration in India

Published 5 March 2018 / By Zovanga L. Kone, Maggie Y. Liu, Aaditya Mattoo, Çağlar Özden & Siddharth Sharma

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Internal mobility is a critical component of economic growth and development, as it enables the reallocation of labor to more productive opportunities across sectors and regions. Using detailed district-to-district migration data from the 2001 Census of India, the paper highlights the role of state borders as significant impediments to internal mobility. The analysis finds that average migration between neighboring districts in the same state is at least 50 percent larger than neighboring districts on different sides of a state border, even after accounting for linguistic differences. Although the impact of state borders differs by education, age, and reason for migration, it is always large and significant. The paper suggests that inter-state mobility is inhibited by state-level entitlement schemes, ranging from access to subsidized goods through the public distribution system to the bias for states’ own residents in access to tertiary education and public sector employment.

This Working Paper has now been published in the Journal of Economic Geography:


Internal migration, internal borders, immigration, emigration


Zovanga L. Kone, The Migration Observatory, COMPAS, University of Oxford; Email: 

Maggie Y. Liu, World Bank Group and Smith College; Email:

Aaditya Mattoo, World Bank Group; Email:

Çağlar Özden, World Bank Group; Email:

Siddharth Sharma, World Bank Group; Email:


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