Accepted paper:

Aspirations and migration decisions: is the future far far away?


Kundan Mishra (University of Massachusetts Boston)

Paper short abstract:

Using mixed methods study, this paper explores the interaction between household aspirations and migration decisions. In this paper, I use a capabilities approach based framework to understand migration decisions and the distinction between the agency of migrant individuals and household.

Paper long abstract:

The priorities and aspirations of rural migrants are undermined by explanations of rural-urban migration through aggregated indicators of economic growth. The capabilities approach as a conceptual framework continues to highlight the agency of individuals and communities in understanding key human development issues. This paper extends the capabilities approach to understand the agency of rural migrant households under conditions of economic distress. Seasonal migration is a form of rural-urban migration in which individuals and families migrate towards urban and peri-urban areas for work during the agricultural lean season. In Odisha, seasonal migration presents an empirical puzzle where individuals and families migrate without a substantial improvement in well-being. Through a mixed-methods study of migrant households in rural Odisha, this project pursues two key objectives. First, the project tests the human capital and human security arguments that emphasize improvement in well-being and mitigation of risk as the underlying reasons for rural-urban migration. Second, this project examines the agency of households characterized by their aspirations, priorities and decision-making process to understand the persistence of seasonal migration. The focus group discussions in the first phase corroborate the priorities and aspirations from existing theoretical and empirical work. The first phase of household surveys, reflecting these priorities, seeks to capture household level data about well-being indicators, risk indicators, aspirations, and priorities. Then using focus group discussions will be used to inform and corroborate initial findings from the surveys. Finally, the relationship between household priorities and aspirations, and household decisions to migrate are analyzed through regression models.

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