Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Population Research Discovery Seminars

Fellow Host: Michelle O'Brien

Moving to Despair? Migration and Well-Being in Pakistan

Valerie Mueller, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University

10/20/2017
12:30-1:30 PM PT
121 Raitt Hall

Internal migration has the potential to substantially increase income, especially for the poor in developing countries, and yet migration rates remain low. We explore the role of psychic costs by evaluating the impacts of internal migration on a suite of well-being indicators using a unique, 22-year longitudinal study in rural Pakistan. We account for selection into migration using covariate matching. Migrants have roughly 35 to 40 percent higher consumption per adult equivalent, yet are 12 to 14 percentage points less likely to report feeling either happy or calm. Our results suggest that deteriorating physical health coupled with feelings of relative deprivation underlie the disparity between economic and mental well-being. Thus, despite substantial monetary gains from migration, people may be happier and less mentally distressed remaining at home. If traditional market mechanisms cannot reduce psychic costs, it may be more constructive to address regional inequality by shifting production – rather than workers – across space.

Valerie Mueller is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. Prior to joining ASU, she was a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C. Dr. Mueller’s research falls largely into three main themes. The first quantifies rural household vulnerability to climate variability, focusing on migration, nutrition, and health markers in Africa and Asia. The second area of research uses randomized control trials to identify mechanisms to improve the delivery of rural services (legal justice for women, agricultural extension, and the equitable allocation of irrigation water) in East African countries. Her third area of research is on the prospects of youth employment in Africa. She is currently co-editing a volume, which studies the evolution of youth employment and its role in the structural transformation process in Africa.

Her research contributions have been featured in Nature Climate Change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Economic Review, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, and the Journal of Development Economics, and have received significant media coverage in over 15 major media outlets (including Le Monde, Science, and Scientific American). Despite her presence in the research community, she remains involved in the field and aims to provide relevant technical expertise by repeated interaction with donor communities, local policymakers, and government officials.

Schedule a meeting with the Speaker