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Migration Strongly Benefits Girls in Home Countries, Says New World Bank Book

June 28, 2007

Paris, June 28, 2007—New research by the World Bank shows that migration from parts of South Asia boosts girls’ education and healthcare back home—for example, in Pakistan migration increases girls’ school enrolment by as much as 54 percent compared with just 7 percent for boys. Researchers say this is because boys’ essential needs are usually met from basic household income in societies favoring sons. Similar findings are obtained in a study focusing on parts of Central America.
Edited by Caglar Ozden and Maurice Schiff, International Migration, Economic Development, and Policy also confirms that migration reduces extreme poverty in developing countries, by as much as 35 percent in migrant households in Mexico.

In a groundbreaking finding, the book shows that migration to Europe is associated with lowered fertility rates in Morocco and Turkey; and that migrants can command higher wages in their home country than workers with no international exposure.

“Migration can help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction, education, health, and women’s empowerment in several ways – e.g by raising family incomes, helping the accumulation of capital and skills, and enlarging commercial networks,” said L. Alan Winters, Director of the World Bank’s Development Research Group. “With its considerable development impact in sending countries, migration must remain high on the global policy agenda.”

Drawing on a new migration database covering 226 countries presented by Parsons, Skeldon, Walmsley and Winters, the book shows that there is significant migration between developing countries, with more than 42 million migrants—one fourth of the world’s migrant population—having moved “South-South” rather than “South-North” from developing to developed countries.

“Comparable cross-country data on migration is of great importance to policymakers,” said economist Caglar Ozden, co-editor of the book. “Patterns in the new data reported in this book confirm, for instance, that migration is heavily influenced by a common language in the host and receiving countries, distance that migrants have to travel from home, and expectation of increased income upon migration.”

The book shows a strong link between migration on the one hand, and child labor and girls’ education on the other. In Pakistan, Mansuri finds that girls in migrant households stay in school close to two years longer than those in non-migrant households. She also shows that children in migrant households are less likely to work, and those who do, work about 66% less.

A previously under-researched area is the connection between migration and child health. Evidence from Pakistan shows that migration improves young children’s weight-for-age and height-for-age scores, and that the improvement is sustained as children grow older. Acosta and co-authors obtain similar results for the impact of remittances in low-income households in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The Nicaragua study also finds that remittances significantly increase the likelihood of doctor-assisted births, a major factor in maternal health and survival.

Path-breaking research by Philippe Fargues demonstrates a strong association between migration and fertility rates through the transmission of ideas and modes of behavior from host to source countries. For instance, migration to Europe from Morocco and Turkey has led to a decline in fertility, while migration from Egypt to more traditional societies in oil-rich Persian Gulf countries has delayed the decline in fertility rates.

“As this study shows, the impact of migration on development goes well beyond the impact of remittances,” said Maurice Schiff, Lead Economist and co-editor of the book.  “Understanding these additional effects — including those on fertility and institutional development —  is essential for the design of effective migration policies and has acquired increased urgency at a time when many host countries are considering reforming their immigration policies.”

For the first time, strong evidence has been obtained that temporary migration abroad results in a large wage premium upon migrants’ return to their country of origin. Jackline Wahba finds that, on average, migrants returning to Egypt earn about 38 percent more than non-migrants with similar profiles. This result lends support to policies favoring temporary overseas migration, which could also help prevent the so-called “brain drain” in countries of origin.

Host country regulations can affect the type of migrants seeking entry in unexpected ways. Gibson and McKenzie’s study of migrants entering New Zealand shows that the host country policy of only allowing entry if migrants already have a job offer does not necessarily ensure  entry of the best human capital. Migrants with job offers in hand often get these jobs through the existing migrant network rather than based on their unique qualifications.

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