Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Mark Lowery, Joan Krenzin, Paul Wozniak

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Historically, as a consequence of the transit function of Panama's economy and the concentration of its economic activities in one specific geographic area, three societal processes have become strongly interrelated. First, economic growth has been concentrated in the tertiary sector. Second, an imbalance has occurred in the extent to which each economic sector generates and can absorb the Panamanian labor force. Third, population has shifted to the urban and metropolitan Province of Panama as a result of strong rural to urban migration, generating a disproportionate population distribution.

In this study, migration flows in Panama and the changes in economic and social conditions in both the rural sending areas and in the urban receiving areas in the last two decades have been examined. The Province of Panama continued to be the most populous province (46 percent of the country's total population in 1990) and the principal receiving area for most rural to urban migrants. However, in the most recent 1985-1990 period the Province of Panama was also the province with the highest out-migration. The out-migration flow from the Province of Panama to the rural provinces that previously had the highest out-migration to Panama was found indicative of return migration to these areas. This phenomenon is a new development and has not been reported in the literature on internal migration for earlier periods in Panama.

Selected theoretical propositions concerning basic relations between economic, demographic, and social factors and the volume and direction of migration in the Republic of Panama in the period 1970-1990 were tested. Data for this study are from the 1970, 1980 and 1990 Panama National Censuses of Population and Housing. The content of this present study not only describes and details the patterns of migration but also helps explain the principal factors affecting that process in Panama during the last two decades.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Migration Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology