Human Migration in the United States

By: Rose Gonzalez

Time: 2 class periods
Photocopy reading handout and any maps when not using geography text
Materials: Handout Introduction to Human Migration and Population and Subregions of the United States; U.S. Geography texts or maps that include political boundaries of U.S.; transparency map of political U.S.; colored pencils or highlighters.


The United States is the world’s third largest country in land area and population. Its abundance of natural resources and variations in climate, fertile soil, and plentiful water has attracted many immigrants in search of a better life. In this lesson, students will study the factors involved in human migration in the United States.

This lesson in Exploration will have students analyze maps of different regions in the United States to determine how a variety of factors influenced human settlement and development.

Students will be able to:
1. Locate the four major subregions of the United States.
2. Explain the push-pull factors of migration in each subregion.

National Geography Standard
1. How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.
9. The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human population on the earth’s surface.

9.2 The impact of human migration on physical and human systems.
9.3(?) Explain the economic, political, and social factors that contribute to human migration.

Teacher Background

Related and Resource Websites




Day 1
1. As a class, students read the Introduction to Human Migration and Population. The teacher specifically emphasizes the definitions of migration and push-pull factors while reading aloud with the class, and explains that these definitions are important to understand for an upcoming activity. It is a good idea for the teacher to solicit examples from the class of push-pull factors to verify their understanding. Some possible questions include:

“ Where is your family from?”
” Why did your family originally settle here?”
“ What does your family like about living in this city?”
“ What kind of jobs do your parents have?”

2. Based on their answers, the teacher guides the students into making connections about the reasons people move to and settle in different parts of the country.

The teacher should explain to the class that the U.S. is a country with 4 distinct subregions that attract people to live in them for different reasons.

At this point, hand out a political map of the U.S. to each student.

Using a geography transparency with a political map of the U.S., the teacher guides the students by showing them the 4 subregions:

  • The Northeast
  • The Midwest
  • The South
  • The West

Each region with state boundaries should be shaded by a different color on the transparency.

Using colored pencils or highlighters, ask students to do the same by shading in and labeling the regions.

Day 2
2. Students read the handout titled “Sub-regions of the United States.” You may either read aloud as a class or work in pairs with this activity. After the reading is accomplished, ask students to answer the following questions:

  • Identify and list the push-pull factors in the development of the Northeast. (Push factors – The regions coastal and inland waters served as trade centers; there were jobs in manufacturing, service, and finance. Pull factors – loss of jobs in traditional industries; warmer climates existed in the West and South)
  • Why was the Midwest suitable for settlement? (Pull factors – fertile soil, good rainfall and temperate climate, great location, good waterways. Push factors – jobs and homes moving to the suburbs; even warmer climates in the South and West)
  • What factors pull people to live in the South? (Jobs in oil, steel, electronics; climate brings in tourists and retirees)
  • Why does California draw so many people to live there? (Variety of jobs available; coastal waters and mountains attract recreation)

Summarize with the class that many students in the discussion on Day 1said their family was not originally from the United States, or even the city they currently live in. Continue explaining that some students said their families settled in their particular city because of its economic opportunities that offered good jobs, a better way of life, or because their family preferred living, for example, near the coast in a mild climate. All the reasons related to human movement or migrations are related to push-pull factors in relationship to a region’s economy, natural resources, physical features or climate. Conclude by explaining that many of these factors are constantly changing, therefore, human migration and development is never stagnant.


Embedded Assessment
Ask students to write a short paragraph explaining to you which region of the United States they would choose to live in based on their comparisons of each area. They must specifically state their reasons why.



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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