The interaction of local populations has been the focus of an increasing number of studies in the past 30 years. The study of source-sink dynamics has especially generated much interest. Many of the criteria used to distinguish sources and sinks incorporate the process of apparent survival (i.e., the combined probability of true survival and site fidelity) but not emigration. These criteria implicitly treat emigration as mortality, thus biasing the classification of sources and sinks in a manner that could lead to flawed habitat management. Some of the same criteria require rather restrictive assumptions about population equilibrium that, when violated, can also generate misleading inference. Here, we expand on a criterion (denoted ?contribution? or Cr) that incorporates successful emigration in differentiating sources and sinks and that makes no restrictive assumptions about dispersal or equilibrium processes in populations of interest. The metric Cr is rooted in the theory of matrix population models, yet it also contains clearly specified parameters that have been estimated in previous empirical research. We suggest that estimates of emigration are important for delineating sources and sinks and, more generally, for evaluating how local populations interact to generate overall system dynamics. This suggestion has direct implications for issues such as species conservation and habitat management.