Abstract

Labor migration has a profound effect on families, but evidence documenting the impact of migration on women left behind is still lacking. Utilizing the Matlab Health and Socioeconomic Surveys, we examined the roles of migration and families in four domains of empowerment for women in Bangladesh. We found that women with international migrant spouses saw significant improvements in economic empowerment, mobility, and decision-making relative to women with coresident spouses (p < .0001). However, women who lived in multigenerational households with their parents or in-laws experienced significant reductions in empowerment across these three domains. Both having a migrant spouse and living in a multigenerational household had negative effects on beliefs about gender equivalence and reduced joint decision-making for women. Results, which were robust to migration selection controls (including propensity approaches), indicate that the benefits of migration for women left behind might be diluted by family structures that perpetuate unequal gender dynamics.

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