Working Paper
Migration and the autonomy of women left behind

This paper investigates the impact of migration of male household heads on the autonomy of their spouses. Using panel household survey data from Ethiopia, the methodology mainly relies on an instrumental variables approach that addresses the endogeneity inherent in the relationship using past migration as the instrument and carefully paying attention to the role of remittances.

We find consistent evidence that male migration increases female self-determination and decision-making power, and (to a lesser extent) the ability to protect one’s interests. As all these variables measure autonomy, our results suggest that migration of husbands offers an opportunity for women to become more autonomous in traditional societies. Furthermore, through comparison with a household fixed-effects model with contrasting findings, our results indicate that a careful treatment of the inherent endogeneity is imperative.