Does labor migration affect human capital in the long run? Evidence from Malawi

Type Report
Title Does labor migration affect human capital in the long run? Evidence from Malawi
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Circular labor migration within and across national borders is a central feature of labor markets across Africa, and yet little is known about impacts on sending communities. This paper estimates the net effects of labor migration on long run human capital accumulation in Malawi. Malawi is one of many labor reservoirs in the region that historically supplied workers to South African mines, and where the potential for children to substitute for missing male labor is large. We study the effects of large circular migration shocks generated by two events in this country: the removal of labor migration quotas in 1967, and a ban on mine labor in 1974. We use proximity to historic mine recruiting stations to capture spatial variation in exposure to the resulting expansion and contraction of foreign employment. Using newly digitized Census data, we compare differences in educational attainment across high and low migration shock areas, among adult cohorts eligible and ineligible for primary school between 1967 and 1977. Both expansion and contraction of labor migration had large, positive and lasting impacts on education of those left behind. Age eligible cohorts with the greatest exposure to migration shocks gain 0.08 to 0.135 more years of schooling and are 2 to 3 percentage points more likely to have ever attended school. These positive effects of labor migration income are significantly smaller where local agricultural production offered more opportunity for child labor.

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