Emily Conover

Professor of Economics Emily Conover was a guest speaker at the Governance and Development Seminar Series of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. She presented “What Happens When Men Don’t Migrate? Partnership and Fertility in a Migrant Sending Country” to an audience of researchers and policy makers.

The paper is part of a larger research agenda in which she and her co-authors, Melanie Khamis of Wesleyan University and Sarah Pearlman of Vassar College, explore the consequences of changing migration patterns in Mexico. Conover and her fellow researchers use econometric methods to isolate changes in net migration uncorrelated with conditions in Mexico, then estimate the effects of these net migration declines on demographic outcomes.

Their findings show that the increased number of men results in lower marriage rates, with more cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births. Conover noted that “this is consistent with what literature in the U.S. have found happens when men have reduced economic prospects.”

She said that among those who partner (marry or cohabitate), the men in those partnerships are more likely to have higher levels of education, wages, and probability of employment. This, she added, is consistent with an increased pool of potential mates.

In earlier work, Conover and her co-authors explored the effects of a decline in outmigration on short-run labor market outcomes. Their study, published recently in The Journal of Human Resources, showed that lower educated men are the most affected by the labor supply shock. This group exhibits lower probability of employment and wages. There are also changes in the type of employment, with less self-employment and more salaried work in the informal sector.

Another paper by Conover, Khamis, and Pearlman examines the impact of the resulting gender imbalance on women’s labor force participation. This research, based on an earlier period of increased male migration, was published in the IZA Journal of Development and Migration. It showed that women are more likely to work, have high-skilled jobs, and that some earn higher wages.

Conover said that findings from their work are useful to policy makers who want to understand how changes in migration can impact demographic and labor market outcomes. “The implications of these changes are important for designing social policies in migrant-sending countries,” she said.

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