Abstract Between 1996 and 2001, Ontario experienced an increase in its rural and small town population. This paper determines whether growth was a result of metropolitan decentralization or deconcentration. Analysis of migration data reveals that movement from metropolitan regions to municipalities under strong or moderate urban influence (i.e. decentralization) accounted for almost one-half of all migrations. Comparable movement to rural settings under weak or no urban influence (i.e. deconcentration) represented 3% of all relocations. Migration from census agglomerations, and other rural settlements, also promoted growth of non-metropolitan municipalities. It is concluded that although metropolitan decentralization was the most important migration path, it is one of many which led migrants into rural Ontario during this 5-year period.