Negotiated Identities: Re-Examining Male Migration and “Left- behind” Wives in India

Manjistha Banerji , National Council of Applied Economic Research
Sonalde B. Desai, India Human Development Survey

Typically when men migrate they leave their families- wife and children behind in the place of origin. What is the impact of such migration on the autonomy of the wives who are “left- behind” ? Discharging the responsibilities of the (absent) migrant spouse can potentially empower the woman in a patriarchal society where the wife's role is limited or otherwise restricted to the confines of the home. At the same time, male migration and women's autonomy are potentially endogenous. Women who are autonomous are more likely to encourage their husbands to migrate and men with wives who have greater capacity to deal with the external worlds may be more comfortable leaving them in charge of the family while they migrate to work. Using panel data from two waves of India Human Development Survey, this paper teases out the relationship between male migration and women's autonomy.

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 Presented in Session 188. Migration's Impacts on Gender