Migrating Away from a Seasonal Famine: A Randomized Intervention in Bangladesh
The rural northwestern districts of Bangladesh, home to 10 million people, experience a preharvest seasonal famine, locally known as Monga, with disturbing regularity. Surprisingly, outmigration from the Monga-prone districts is not all that common. This research tests whether migration could play any role in Monga mitigation. We implemented a randomized intervention that provided monetary incentives to individuals in Monga-prone regions to seasonally outmigrate during the pre-harvest season. We experimentally varied the conditionalities attached to the incentives, such as a requirement to form a group and migrate jointly (as opposed to migrating individually), sometimes assigning migration partners and the destination, and varying group size. This paper reports just the first stage results of this randomized intervention project, where we focus on household responsiveness to our incentive offers in terms of their decision to migrate. Our cash and credit incentives had a very large effect on migration propensity: over 40% of those receiving an incentive choose to migrate, whereas only 13% of control households do. This large effect is consistent with the presence of savings or borrowing constraints for these households, since providing information on wages and employment conditions at destinations only has a negligible 2 percentage point impact on the propensity to migrate relative to the control group.
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