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Rural–urban linkages and circular migration are influenced by both economic needs and by social and cultural factors. The balance of these forces is often hard to disentangle for individual households, let alone for a whole city or region. Furthermore, the relative importance of these influences is contested in the academic literature. Not surprisingly, studies by anthropologists of these phenomena frequently stress the significance of culture, kinship and networks while those by economists or geographers often find more explanatory power in income and economic livelihood factors. It has already been noted in Chapter 2 that studies in West African settings find more salience in the social and cultural drivers of continuing circulation and links to rural settings than studies in southern Africa. It is believed that this not only reflects a difference in the regional paradigms within which such work is conducted, but also some real differences in the phenomena in these regions which can be ascribed to a range of differentiating factors, such as different contemporary rural settlement and agricultural geographies, different urban histories, and marked variation in the ways in which pre-colonial political institutions were affected by their incorporation into European colonial power structures.
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