Migration Rhythms in Trajectories of Upward Social Mobility in Asia

Led by Marta Bivand Erdal

May 2021 – Apr 2026

Hanoi, Vietnam. Florian Wehde/Unsplash
​Ninety percent of the global increase in the size of middle classes is occurring in Asia.

Ninety percent of the global increase in the size of middle classes is occurring in Asia. What is driving this tremendous middle-class expansion and how is it related to the unprecedented levels of internal and international migration in that region? Specifically, what roles does migration play in Asian families’ trajectories into middle-classness over time?

MigrationRhythms will investigate this question, discerning whether the roles of migration in trajectories of upward social mobility into middle-classness differ, and if so, how and why. The variation in distances and durations of migration among individuals in a family, over time, are described as migration rhythms.

The idea of migration rhythms draws on work in geography and migration studies, on time, demography – and the longitudinal impacts of migration. Drawing on data from four Asian cities – Karachi and Mumbai, Hanoi and Manilla – this project will theorize the interaction of migration and social mobility.

For middle-class families in Asian cities today: which roles have remittances played over time, in their trajectories of upward social mobility? And how has the migration of family members for shorter or longer periods of time, to places far away, or just to the next city, shaped these trajectories?

The MigrationRhythms project will find out, using family history interviews and survey data. And through these accessing narratives about – and comparable and verifiable measures of – the roles of migration in upward social mobility.

To learn more about the project, watch the project video featuring project leader Marta Bivand Erdal here.

You can also learn more about the project by listening to the episode of 'PRIO's Peace in a Pod' podcast where Marta Bivand Erdal talks about the project.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 948403)

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