April 21, 2015

Families left behind by migrant workers do not always benefit

Families left behind by migrant workers do not always benefit

Empirical research shows that:

  • Income from remittances can reduce child labor and boost children’s schooling
  • The migration of an economically active family member places a heavier burden on those left behind
  • Disrupted family life can lead to poor diets and increased psychological problems

Immigration is a topic saturating the media, especially ahead of the much-anticipated UK general election in May. In our globalized workforce, there are approximately a billion people worldwide who live and work outside the country or region in which they were born.

This migration for work in other countries is conventionally viewed as economically beneficial for the family members who are left behind due the increased funds sent back to them in the home country by the migrated breadwinner. However, splitting up families in this way may also have multiple adverse effects on education, health, labor supply response, and social status for family members who do not migrate.

In a new article for IZA World of Labor, Sylvie Démurger discusses how a family member migrating to another country to work does not always have positive implications for the rest of the family left behind. The effect of a family member’s migration on those who stay behind can be either positive or negative, depending on individual circumstances.

Migration and families left behind, by Sylvie Démurger, was published on 21st April 2015.


Author quote: “Labor migration does not unambiguously benefit family members who stay behind. Carefully designed strategies that account for the wide-ranging situations of migrants and their families left behind are critical to address the potentially detrimental effects of migration.”

IZA World of Labor is a free, online resource created by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in collaboration with Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Articles focus on global labor economics issues, drawing on empirical, evidence-based research in order to offer pertinent comment and evaluation, and best-practice policy advice.

Sylvie Démurger is CNRS Research Professor at GATE Lyon Saint-Etienne. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Paris 1. Her main fields of research are development economics, labor economics, migration and inequalities, applied to the Chinese case. She joined IZA as a Research Fellow in July 2013