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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

James K. Boyce

Second Advisor

Nancy Folbre

Third Advisor

James Heintz

Subject Categories

African Studies | Economics


My dissertation research is motivated by the growing participation of African women in migration streams long dominated by men. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative evidence from my field research on the rural-urban migration of women in Ghana, I explore the role of social norms in shaping migration and remittance behavior in developing countries.

Existing studies of the impact of migrant remittances on intra-household allocation are based on datasets that assume that remittances flow to a unified household, in which the household head receives remittances and makes decisions about their use. In contrast, this study makes use of a unique dataset generated during my field research that provides detailed information not only on migration, remittances and household expenditures, but also on the identities of the remitters and recipients of remittances in 181 rural households in northern Ghana. The study also draws on in-depth interviews with migrants, household and community members to understand how social norms influence migration and remittance behavior.

I find that gendered social norms play an important role in migration and remittance decisions, so that gender becomes an important determinant of who migrates and who sends remittances, to whom, and why. In particular, I find that female migrants often direct their remittances to other women, thereby creating female-centered networks of remittance flows within the household.

To determine the effect of this on intra-household resource allocation, I analyze the impact of remittances from female migrants on education expenditure. I find that migrant households in which women are the primary remitter or recipient of remittances spend significantly more on education per child of school-going age than do other migrant households.

By taking an intra-household approach to the analysis of migration and remittances that emphasizes the role of gendered social norms in migration and remittance decisions, this research contributes to the growing body of knowledge of how gender shapes migration outcomes. More importantly, by drawing attention to the positive development outcomes that could result from the migration of women, this research strengthens the case for formulating policies to improve the working and living conditions of women migrants around the world.