Marriage, Work and Migration: the Role of Infrastructure Development and Gender Norms

Amrit Amirapu (University of Kent)
Niaz Asadullah (Malaya University)
Zaki Wahhaj (University of Kent)

Abstract: This paper aims to shed light on the constraints to and the linkages between the marriage, work and migration decisions of women in developing countries. Using the construction of a major bridge in Bangladesh as a source of plausibly exogenous variation in migration costs – along with data from a purposefully designed nationally representative survey of women – we address the question of how a drop in the cost of migration to the industrial belt affected (i) female migration; (ii) marriage patterns; (iii) female labour force participation; (iv) male and female educational attainment. Our empirical findings are consistent with the hypothesis that social norms restricting female mobility prevented women from the economically deprived northwestern regions of Bangladesh from taking direct advantage of the reduction in migration costs. However, by paying a higher dowry and marrying male migrants from the local marriage market, a subset of women were able to migrate to the industrial belt and thus take up employment in the manufacturing sector.