Male migration and family-related outcomes

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


The income benefits of out-migrant work in developing countries are well established. However, much less is known about changes in women's empowerment that might occur during spousal migration spells. Two main questions motivate this research. First, during a spouse's absence, does a woman gain more control over household resources? Second, does this shift in power affect children's welfare, indicating that women have different preferences for children's welfare than do their husbands? In this paper I identify causally each step in this sequence using unique panel data from rural Nepal, a country known for high rates of male migrant work. This research makes contributions to two bodies of literature, the first being the migration literature. The majority of the past migration research has been quite narrow in scope, covering mainly how migrant households use remittances. Consequently, any discussion on the benefits of migration often centers on remittances with little regard to other potential sources of economic development. This research is a critical addition to the migration literature, as it unlocks more discussion on the effects of migration holding economic resources constant. Second, this paper contributes to the intersection between intra-household bargaining and international development literature. Many development programs give cash or in-kind transfers to women in poor families, motivated by the common belief that women spend resources in a more pro-child way than do men. This makes sense theoretically: if household members have unique preferences and bargain over control of household resources, then the effectiveness of a transfer depends on the recipient's preferences and bargaining power. The common assumption is that women have less bargaining power and stronger preferences for children's welfare than men. Yet the literature on this issue is not as conclusive as this commonly-held belief would suggest. As development programs continue to choose beneficiaries, more research in this area is certainly warranted in order to maximize effectiveness of transfers. Furthermore, we might expect that outcomes vary with local context, perhaps due to cultural differences. Therefore, evaluating this claim in rural Nepal provides useful policy implications for programs focused in rural South-East Asia.




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