Groups and interactions in data, networks and biology

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: Migration of Populations via Marriages in the Past

Mason Porter

University of Oxford


The study of human mobility is both of fundamental importance and of great potential value. For example, it can be leveraged to facilitate efficient city planning and improve prevention strategies when faced with epidemics. The newfound wealth of rich sources of data—including banknote flows, mobile phone records, and transportation data—has led to an explosion of attempts to characterize modern human mobility. Unfortunately, the dearth of comparable historical data makes it much more difficult to study human mobility patterns from the past. In this paper, we present an analysis of long-term human migration, which is important for processes such as urbanization and the spread of ideas. We demonstrate that the data record from Korean family books (called “jokbo”) can be used to estimate migration patterns via marriages from the past 750 years. We apply two generative models of long-term human mobility to quantify the relevance of geographical information to human marriage records in the data, and we find that the wide variety in the geographical distributions of the clans poses interesting challenges for the direct application of these models. Using the different geographical distributions of clans, we quantify the “ergodicity” of clans in terms of how widely and uniformly they have spread across Korea, and we compare these results to those obtained using surname data from the Czech Republic. To examine population flow in more detail, we also construct and examine a population-flow network between regions. Based on the correlation between ergodicity and migration in Korea, we identify two different types of migration patterns: diffusive and convective. We expect the analysis of diffusive versus convective effects in population flows to be widely applicable to the study of mobility and migration patterns across different cultures.