Dual Economies or Dual Livelihoods? Short-Term Migration from Rural India and Non-Agricultural Employment

Diane Coffey, Princeton University
John Papp, Princeton University
Dean Spears, Princeton University

Economists have long conceived dual developing economies, linked by costly permanent migration from the rural sector to seek urban employment. However, permanent migration of men from rural Indian villages remains uncommon. Moreover, existing data have limited opportunities to study the details of how households leave agricultural work for non-agricultural work or, as we find, how they use short-term migration to combine these livelihoods. This paper analyzes new data about 705 households from 70 villages in rural Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. Data collection emphasized detailed migration histories, and included interviews with 2,224 adults. The data address unresolved questions and suggest limits of existing accounts of Indian labor migration. Short-term migration allows non-agricultural work to be a large component of the livelihood of otherwise agricultural households. In this way, short-term migration creates channels for economic spillovers among rural and urban growth, poverty, and policies.

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Presented in Session 90: Internal Migration, Emigration, and Social and Economic Change