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Drawing on a large database from the register of inhabitants of Madrid, this article confirms that the literacy levels of internal migrants moving to the Spanish capital city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were higher than that of those who remained in their provinces of origin. This article also explores the different factors influencing the nature and intensity of the selection process. The empirical exercise stresses that the stock of previous migration was a fundamental factor in allowing less literate individuals to join the migration process as well. Interestingly, distance to Madrid hardly affected the profile of male migrants, but it was a strong influence on female migration, although its importance diminished over time. Lastly, the results presented here show that other internal destinations were attracting different types of migrants, often resulting in negative self-selection.