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Seasonal Migration and Risk Aversion

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  • Bryan, Gharad
  • Chowdhury, Shyamal
  • Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq

Abstract

Pre-harvest lean seasons are widespread in the agrarian areas of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, these seasonal famines force millions of people to succumb to poverty and hunger. We randomly assign an $8.50 incentive to households in Bangladesh to out-migrate during the lean season, and document a set of striking facts. The incentive induces 22% of households to send a seasonal migrant, consumption at the origin increases by 30% (550-700 calories per person per day) for the family members of induced migrants, and follow-up data show that treated households continue to re-migrate at a higher rate after the incentive is removed. The migration rate is 10 percentage points higher in treatment areas a year later, and three years later it is still 8 percentage points higher. These facts can be explained by a model with three key elements: (a) experimenting with the new activity is risky, given uncertain prospects at the destination, (b) overcoming the risk requires individual-specific learning (e.g. resolving the uncertainty about matching to an employer), and (c) some migrants are close to subsistence and the risk of failure is very costly. We test a model with these features by examining heterogeneity in take-up and re-migration, and by conducting a new experiment with a migration insurance treatment. We document several pieces of evidence consistent with the model.

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  • Bryan, Gharad & Chowdhury, Shyamal & Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq, 2012. "Seasonal Migration and Risk Aversion," CEPR Discussion Papers 8739, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8739
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    Cited by:

    1. Mike Waugh & David Lagakos & Doug Gollin, 2011. "The Agricultural Productivity Gap in Developing Countries," 2011 Meeting Papers 1397, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Emily A. Beam & David McKenzie & Dean Yang, 2016. "Unilateral Facilitation Does Not Raise International Labor Migration from the Philippines," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(2), pages 323-368.
    3. Gindling,T. H. & Mossaad,Nadwa & Newhouse,David Locke, 2016. "Earnings premiums and penalties for self-employment and informal employees around the world," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7530, The World Bank.
    4. Grant Miller & A. Mushfiq Mobarak, 2013. "Gender Differences in Preferences, Intra-Household Externalities, and Low Demand for Improved Cookstoves," NBER Working Papers 18964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Headey, Derek D. & Jayne, T.S., 2014. "Adaptation to land constraints: Is Africa different?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 18-33.
    6. Collier, Paul & Dercon, Stefan, 2014. "African Agriculture in 50Years: Smallholders in a Rapidly Changing World?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 92-101.
    7. Das, Narayan & de Janvry, Alain & Mahmood, Sakib & Sadoulet, Elisabeth, 2014. "Migration as a risky enterprise: A diagnostic for Bangladesh," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt6574658k, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    8. Michael Clemens and Timothy N. Ogden, 2014. "Migration as a Strategy for Household Finance: A Research Agenda on Remittances, Payments, and Development- Working Paper 354," Working Papers 354, Center for Global Development.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bangladesh; Migration; Risk Aversion;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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