Determinants of Migration: Cotton Strikes and Income Shocks in Mali

Zachary Barnett-Howell and Jeremy Foltz


How do transitory income shocks affect household migration decisions in low-income countries? We study how income losses from a cotton strike affecting Malian districts differentially changed agricultural household migration choices. The short duration and geographic specificity of the strike allows us to cleanly identify the long-run impact of a sudden change in household income on migration choices. We show that a drop in income precipitated by the strike reduced household migration rates by approximately 32% over a six-year period. A randomized inference placebo test corroborates the validity of our result. We demonstrate that not having cash on hand is a binding constraint to labor migration for poor populations.


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