Human migration involves the relocation of individuals, households or moving groups between geographical locations. Aggregate spatial patterns of movement reflect complex interactions among motivations (such as distance, identity, economic opportunities, etc.) that influence migration behaviour and determine destination choice. Gravity models and radiation models are often used to study different types of migration at various spatial scales. In this paper, we propose that human migration models can be improved by embedding regional identities into the model. We modify the existing human migration gravity model by adding an identity parameter based on three different sets of Dutch identity regions. Through analysis of the Dutch internal migration data between 1996 and 2016, we show that adding the identity parameter has a significant effect on the distance distribution. We find that individuals are more likely to move towards municipalities located within the same identity region. We test the impact of regional identity by comparing randomly spatially clustered and optimised identity regions to show that the effects we attribute to regional identity could not be attributed due to chance. Finally, our finding shows that cultural identity should be taken into account and has broad implications on the practice of modelling human migration patterns at large. We find that people living in Dutch municipalities are 3.89 times as likely to move to a municipality when it is located within the same historic identity region. Including these identity regions in the migration model decreases the deviation of the model by 10.7%.
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