Migration patterns within tropical forest frontiers are highly complex and multidirectional, with movements to, from, and within these regions likely driven by different macro and micro factors. As such, several different conceptual models have been suggested to explain these dynamics. This paper uses data from a panel survey of households in a frontier region of the western Brazilian Amazon along with “second hand” reports on where people have moved to evaluate these conceptual models. Our rich data set, collected over nearly a decade from hundreds of households, allows us to compare households who arrived at different ages to assess predictions of the life cycle hypothesis; those who have been in the state (or on their properties) for different numbers of years to investigate the turnover hypothesis; those who arrived with different levels of capital to examine path dependence as suggested by conceptual models that focus on wealth dynamics; and the destination and purpose for moves from and within the study region to look for evidence of the frontier expansion hypothesis. We do not find any evidence for the turnover hypothesis, perhaps due to the favorable biophysical and market conditions in our study region. However, patterns in this region are consistent with all of the other conceptual models, reflecting the overlapping theoretical foundations of the models, and the complexity of migration and mobility on the frontier.
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