Despite persistent efforts in understanding the motives and patterns of human migration behaviors, little is known about the microscopic mechanism that drives migration and its association with migrant types. To fill the gap, we develop a population game model in which migrants are allowed to be heterogeneous and decide interactively on their destination, the resulting migration network emerges naturally as an Nash equilibrium and depends continuously on migrant features. We apply the model to Chinese labor migration data at the current and expected stages, aiming to quantify migration behavior and decision mode for different migrant groups and at different stages. We find the type-specific migration network differs significantly for migrants with different age, income and education level, and also differs from the aggregated network at both stages. However, a deep analysis on model performance suggests a different picture, stability exists for the decision mechanism behind the “as-if” unstable migration behavior, which also explains the relative invariance of low migration efficiency in different settings. Finally, by a classification of cities from the estimated game, we find the richness of education resources is the most critical determinant of city attractiveness for migrants, which gives hint to city managers in migration policy design.
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