Migration,sex bias, and child growth in rural Pakistan
Temporary economic migration is undertaken largely in response to resource constraints. This is evident in the volume of remittances sent back by migrants to their families of origin. In agricultural settings, where those left behind are likely to face considerable exposure to uninsured income risk, such resource flows should translate into better risk bearing capacity. In this paper the author takes up this question by asking whether economic migration allows households to avoid costly risk coping strategies. She focuses on early child growth since there is considerable epidemiological evidence that very young children are particularly vulnerable to shocks that lead to growth faltering, with substantial long-term health consequences. The data come from rural Pakistan, where, as in the rest of Asia, son preference is substantial and there are large gender gaps in most developmental outcomes. As such, the interest is in examining also whether migration-induced resource flows allow households to extend better nutrition and health care protection to girls. Recent work on the intra-household allocation of resources and risk has also shown that gender differences in the relative burden of risk may be important and that the allocation of resources to daughters is often one margin along which poor households adjust to uninsurable transitory income shocks. After accounting for selection into migration, the results indicate that migration has a substantially larger positive impact on growth outcomes for young girls. And the growth advantage is sustained among older girls, suggesting potential intergenerational benefits of averting nutritional and other health shocks for girls in early childhood. These results are further validated by restricting the sample to migrant households and comparing the growth outcomes of siblings before and after migration.
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