Australia has a number of visas that are designed to entice migrants to regional areas but the research suggests more needs to be done to keep them there.
ANU demographer Bernard Baffour told SBS News, "you can move migrants to areas, but you can't force them to stay there".
"There needs to be economic opportunities, there needs to be social opportunities, there also needs to be education and infrastructure so migrants can stay in those regional areas."
The study found Chinese-born migrants are more likely to settle in Sydney.
Erin Chew of the Asian Australian Alliance said, "a lot of the Chinese people are city dwellers, so they want to live in [places] where there's a huge concentration of their community."
'Not much opportunity'
Elsewhere, Melbourne is the city of choice for most Indian-born migrants.
Indian-born migrant Gary Randhawa is one such example.
He and his family moved to the regional Victorian town of Wodonga for work. But things didn't go to plan for him or his wife.
"There was not much opportunity for both of us," he said, adding his migrant friends faced similar problems.
"Some of them were engineers [but] one ended up opening a clothes shop in the shopping centre."
Mr Randhawa was unable to find work in his field as a painter. His wife, who is a trained nurse, had to take what she could get.
"She struggled to find a job after applying to so many places, she ended up working in a factory and McDonald's," he said.
After three years they decided to pack up with their son and move to Melbourne.
But he said he'd move back to Wodonga - if the opportunities were there.