Distress, decision and dilemma- seasonal migration and household decision-making in rural india

Mishra, Kundan (2018). 'Distress, Decision and Dilemma- Seasonal Migration and Household Decision-making in Rural India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


Under the prominent pursuit of determinants of rural-urban migration through socio-economic and demographic characteristics, the agency of migrants continues to be underresearched. By understanding rural-urban migration in terms of economic growth, the disconnect between priorities of migrants and priorities of national and regional development is undermined. This further results in contradictory policies that intend to curb migration like integrated rural development schemes and policies that intend to promote migration like vocational skills training. This divergence demands a better understanding of the agency of migrants. This dissertation project extends the capabilities approach to understand the agency of a rural migrant household under conditions of economic distress. With a case study of migrant households in rural Odisha, India, this project pursues two key objectives. First, it tests the human capital and human security arguments that emphasize improvement in well-being, and mitigation of risk as key outcomes and hence the underlying reasons for rural-urban migration. However, seasonal migration in Odisha is an instance where entire families migrate during the agricultural lean season in the absence of any substantial improvement in well-being or risk mitigation. As a second objective, this project looks towards the agency of the household characterized by their aspirations, priorities and decision-making process to understand the persistence of seasonal migration. This project uses mixed methods to realize these objectives. 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 that will reflect these priorities will capture the household level data about well-being indicators, risk indicators, aspirations, and priorities. As an intermediate component, FGDs will be used to corroborate the initial findings from the surveys. Finally, the relationship between household priorities and aspirations, and the decision to migrate will be substantiated through regression models. With the relationship between the agency of a migrant household and the decision to migrate, this project contributes to the nascent knowledge on the agency of migrants by proposing a systematic way to conceptualize and observe it.

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