Topic 7 – Remittances and Gender


Nearly 50 percent of the world’s migrants are female. Along with the rising profile on remittance flows, there is a growing recognition that gender plays an important role in the remittance process, as well as shaping their impacts in the origin country environment. Despite the substantial share of female migrants, there has until recently been limited research dedicated to understanding how gender affects the remittance process. Pfieffer et al (2007) present an overview of the theoretical and empirical issues that emerge within the literature on the effects of gender on international migration and remittances.

To explore how the remittance behavior of women and men differ and what the impact of these difference may be, one strand of literature mainly examines the behavior of migrants in sending areas. A key question whether gender influences the share of income that is remitted to the origin family (Osaki, 1999). In addition, researchers have also examined whether female migrants channel a larger fraction of their transfers into health, nutrition and educational investments for the origin family women and whether they are more likely to maintain social ties with their origin families, which tends to be associated with future remittance flows. Because female migrants tend to earn lower incomes and often have lower rates of labor market participation in the host country, future research may need to account for these issues in isolating the impact of gender on remittance patterns.

Another strand of literature focuses on the impact of gender on remittances using data based on the recipients based in the origin country. De la Briere et al (2002) use a survey of rural households in the Dominican Sierra conducted by the authors. The authors test two non-exclusive hypotheses about what motivates remittances sent by Dominican migrants to their rural parents in the Sierra: insurance and investment motives. The authors find that the relative importance of these two motives to remit is affected by destination (international versus internal migration), gender, and household composition. The insurance function is mainly fulfilled by female migrants to the US. Remittances sent by males, when they are the sole migrant in the household tend to act as insurance. Investment, by contrast, is pursued by both males and females, but only among those migrating to the US.

Amuedo Dorantes and Pozo (2006) investigate the impact of remittances on employment status and hours worked for men and women. Based on nationally representative surveys for Mexico, the authors find that remittance income may decrease or increase hours worked depending on the gender of the recipient and the type of work. The authors account for the endogeneity of remittance income using an instrumental variables approach. One potential explanation for the findings is the selectivity of household composition and out-migration patterns.

Some questions remain in understanding the gender dimensions of the remittance process. Because migration is often household strategy, it is likely that gender not only shapes the remittance process, but also that the process of remitting may in turn influence gender roles. King et al (2006) contribute to this under-researched area by examining the gender dimensions of sending, receiving and the use of remittances in the context of Albanian migration using data on both senders and recipients.