On the road, marriage and mobility in Malaysia

by James P. Smith, Duncan Thomas

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Migration choices of husbands and wives in a dynamic and developing country are studied in the context of an economic model of the household. Data are drawn from the second wave of the Malaysian Family Life Survey. Exploiting the retrospective histories, the authors compare moves that take place before marriage with those made during the marriage; among the latter, moves that are made with the spouse are distinguished from those made alone. The evidence indicates that male mobility is primarily economic in motivation and related to labor market factors; moves by women, however, seem to be more closely related to fertility or family considerations. Migration is apparently not simply an individual decision: the attributes of the spouse are an important influence on mobility, albeit in an asymmetric manner. Moving towards a broader definition of the household, the authors find the characteristics of the parents, parents-in-law and also the (relative) age and gender of siblings, all influence mobility in a rich, if complex, way.

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