Mitigating Seasonal Poverty through Domestic Migration in Bangladesh
In many developing countries, intra-country variation in poverty rates and job opportunities can be very high. For example, while Bangladesh as a whole is on target to achieving the primary United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving its 2000 level of extreme poverty by the year 2015, certain regions of the country lag well behind in economic opportunities and outcomes. In the greater Rangpur districts of the Northwestern region (NW) the incidence of poverty remains unusually high and chronic food shortages and hunger remain enduring phenomena of rural life. These districts experience seasonal deprivation and a famine-like situation, locally known as Monga, with disturbing regularity. Although the occurrence of Monga is quite predictable - described as a “routine crisis” - and its effects widely chronicled in the local media, it hits Rangpur households year after year as though it were an unanticipated shock.
It is common for agricultural laborers in other regions to either switch to local non-farm labor markets or to migrate to urban informal labor markets in search of higher wages and employment opportunities in response to price hikes and wage drops during the pre-harvest season. Surprisingly, despite the absence of local non-farm employment opportunities, out-migration from the Monga prone districts is not all that common even during periods of severe Monga. The primary objective of our research was to test whether integration of labour markets through migration could play any role in Monga mitigation. We implemented a randomized intervention that experimentally varied the incentives and support provided to individuals living in Monga-prone regions to out-migrate during the Monga season.
Our work contributes to the design and implementation of policies and programs that aim to address severe malnutrition, poverty and hunger. Our work also contributes to the literature on urban-rural migration that views migration as both an income maximization and risk minimization decision. By examining the costs and incentives necessary to promote migration, the research helps to identify the non-pecuniary components of the migration decision, including psychological costs, and the kinship and networks pull. Results from our experiment answers questions that are linked to seasonal deprivation, labor market integration, and migration. In addition, it has immediate policy consequences as well.
The project is funded by the Australian Development Research Awards, funding round 2007. It includes Dr. Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Assistant Professor, School of Management, Yale University, as a research collaborator.
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The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1063