In 2004 the journal Demography carried an article by Leah K. VanWey (reviewed here on April 7, 2005) that reported how rural female Thai migrants exhibit more altruistic behavior than rural males when they send remittances back to their villages. Van Wey has published another journal article about remittances in rural northeast Thailand, this time examining land ownership as a factor in promoting migration to the cities.
While her article also includes material about migration from rural western Mexico to Mexican cities and to the United States, her further analysis about rural Thailand is important for the interests of this website. She finds that for households that own less than 10 hectares of land, the amount of land owned is negatively related to the extent of out-migration. That is, the more land a family owns, the less likely a member of the family is to leave for work in a city.
It appears as if the ownership of somewhat larger tracts of land provides employment and investments for members of the households, so migration is less critical. Interestingly, however, the trend reverses for landowners with over 10 hectares. Increased land holding by families with larger farms seems to prompt more migration to cities. The apparent reason is that larger landowning families want to earn money that will allow them to improve the productivity of the land or to purchase still more land.
VanWey argues that her data undercuts the argument that land inequality fosters migration. Instead, migration appears to be a strategy used by rural households in Thailand to cope with the inadequacies of the market situations in their villages. Families allocate some of their human resources to migration in order to overcome the absence of funds or credit to improve their land holdings and farming operations. She finds similar results from western Mexico, especially regarding migration to the U.S.
The author also concludes that as rural families in developing areas like rural Thailand send migrants to cities in order to have access to their remittances, the farmers can use the funds they receive to begin making a transition from traditional farming to modern agriculture. She further maintains that when and if the migrants return to their villages, their experiences may further help the development of the rural regions. VanWey’s research supports a much more hopeful view of the migrants and their remittances than that of some earlier researchers.
VanWey, Leah K. 2005. “Land Ownership as a Determinant of International and Internal Migration in Mexico and Internal Migration in Thailand.” The International Migration Review 39(1): 141-172.