Left Behind or Left Ahead? Implications of Male Migration on Female Political Engagement

Rithika Kumar
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Rithika Kumar
Kellogg Visiting Fellow

Internal male migration is a significant demographic phenomenon affecting millions of lives in the Global South. How does this form of temporary male absence shape the lives of women that these migrants leave behind? In my book project, I argue that migration is radically shifting the contours of local politics as more women occupy traditionally male dominated political arenas in the absence of able-bodied male members i.e., migrant husbands. The absence of husbands eases social norms policing female presence beyond the household, enabling women to gain access to bargaining power, networks, local information, and skills. This empowerment is striking, given internal migration does not directly provide women with earning autonomy, often considered a prerequisite for political empowerment. I provide evidence for my argument using a mixed methods approach combining a range of data from India, a country home to an estimated 100 million internal migrants. Using fieldwork intensive qualitative and quantitative data, including 100 interviews, two surveys (with an embedded survey experiment) and a national level panel dataset from India, I conclude that male migration is fundamentally shifting the contours of local political engagement in these communities through the heightened presence of women in traditionally male dominated political arenas.


Speakers / Related People
Rithika Kumar

Rithika Kumar is a postdoctoral visiting fellow with the Kellogg Institute whose research contributes to scholarship on gender and politics, comparative political behavior, the politics of migration and urbanization, and South Asian politics. During her time at Kellogg, she will work to turn her dissertation into a book...
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