Last updated November 2006
Ali Protik; Randall Kuhn
This paper examines the effect of brother’s migration on the marriage patterns of sisters in a rural area of Bangladesh. It has been proposed that when sons are migrants, especially when accompanied by their spouses, parents become more willing to marry their daughters nearby to secure care support for their old-age. Such willingness arises because of a missing market for care. We use a rich dataset from the Demographic Surveillance System in Matlab, Bangladesh, which contains 20 years of marriage and migration records from 1974 to 1996, supplemented by a 1974 baseline census. We compare women who face similar marriage prospects but differ by their brother’s migration status. Consistent with the theoretical predictions of a general equilibrium model, we find strong evidence that women with migrant brothers are more likely to marry someone from the same village and are also more likely to marry someone with lower human capital. While marrying someone from the same village is a rational response for providing increased care support to parents, marrying someone with lower human capital ensures that a woman with migrant brothers marries a man who is less likely to migrate himself. Our findings suggest that migration can have important distributional consequences in a society with a growing share of elderly population and a missing formal market for care. Introduction of formal markets for care and/or generation of productive off-farm employment opportunities are thus important for mitigating adverse impacts on both the elderly and the young generations.