In this research we consider rural out-migration from two study sites in western Pará in the Amazon Basin. Here we argue that out-migration is strongly influenced by historical context, and by the legacy institutions associated with each site’s period of colonization. We support our argument with longitudinal survey data collected from the rural surroundings of Altamira and Santarém. Our data suggest that rural out-migration is significantly higher from Altamira, the more recently colonized study site. They also indicate that measures of wealth, including access to cattle, property, and housing, artifacts of the institutional periods under which the two study sites were first founded, now exhibit highly divergent influences on migration decisions. We then argue that the varying institutional and historical contexts that once shaped in-migration into the eastern Amazon Basin are now reshaping present day out-migration from the region.