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Fragmenting the Family? The Complexity of Household Migration Strategies in Post-apartheid South Africa


  • Hall Katharine

    () (Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)

  • Posel Dorrit

    (School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)


The disruption of family life is one of the important legacies of South Africa’s colonial and apartheid history. Families were undermined by deliberate strategies implemented through the pass laws, forced removals, urban housing policy, and the creation of homelands. Despite the removal of legal restrictions on permanent urban settlement and family co-residence for Africans, patterns of internal and oscillating labor migration have endured, dual or stretched households continue to link urban and rural nodes, children have remained less urbanized than adults, and many grow up without coresident parents. Although children are clearly affected by adult labor migration, they have tended to be ignored in the migration discourse. In this study, we add to the literature by showing how a child lens advances our understanding of the complexities of household arrangements and migration processes for families. In a mixed-methods study, we use nationally representative panel data to describe persistence, and also change, in migration patterns in South Africa when viewed from the perspective of children. We then draw on a detailed case study to explore what factors constrain or permit families to migrate together, or children to join adults at migration destination areas.

Suggested Citation

  • Hall Katharine & Posel Dorrit, 2019. "Fragmenting the Family? The Complexity of Household Migration Strategies in Post-apartheid South Africa," IZA Journal of Development and Migration, Sciendo & Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 10(2), pages 22-48, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:vrs:izajdm:v:10:y:2019:i:2:p:22-48:n:1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Victoria Hosegood & Anne Case & Cally Ardington, 2009. "Labor Supply Responses to Large Social Transfers: Longitudinal Evidence from South Africa," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 22-48, January.
    2. Dorrit Posel, 2004. "Have Migration Patterns in Post-Apartheid South Africa Changed?," Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, , vol. 15(3-4), pages 277-292, July.
    3. Dorrit Posel & Daniela Casale, 2003. "What has been happening to Internal Labour Migration in South Africa, 1993-1999?," Working Papers 03074, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
    4. Douglas S. Massey, 2015. "A Missing Element in Migration Theories," Migration Letters, Transnational Press London, UK, vol. 12(3), pages 279-299, September.
    5. Dorrit Posel & Daniela Casale, 2003. "What Has Been Happening To Internal Labour Migration In South Africa, 1993–1999?," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 71(3), pages 455-479, September.
    6. Posel, Dorrit & Fairburn, James A. & Lund, Frances, 2006. "Labour migration and households: A reconsideration of the effects of the social pension on labour supply in South Africa," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 836-853, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Harling, Guy & Kobayashi, Lindsay C. & Farrell, Meagan T. & Wagner, Ryan G. & Tollman, Stephen & Berkman, Lisa, 2020. "Social contact, social support, and cognitive health in a population-based study of middle-aged and older men and women in rural South Africa," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 260(C).

    More about this item


    children; family migration; household strategies; mixed methods; South Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth


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