Global Changes and Gendered Responses: The Feminization of Migration From Georgia


  • Funding for this work came from the National Science Foundation [grant numbers 1105875, 1003217], and from a Title VIII Combined Research and Language training grant from American Councils for International Education (ACTR/ACCELS). We thank Alyson Metzger for editorial assistance.


While frequently discussed, the feminization of migration remains among the least understood trends in migration literature. Existing research links feminization of migration to socioeconomic change in migrant origin countries, changes in destination-country labor markets, structural factors, and changing social attitudes. However, questions of how the feminization of migration begins and how it becomes socially institutionalized remain largely unanswered. Having experienced a recent, dramatic increase in female migration, Georgia provides an excellent case to study the emergence of women's labor migration. Our findings highlight the importance of human capital, increasing divorce rates, and an absence of local economic opportunities in motivating increasing numbers of women to migrate. Additionally, changing destination patterns and shifts in labor-market demand toward feminized occupations act as key initial conditions enabling the growth of women's migration. As migration is feminized, cultural beliefs stigmatizing female migrants can be renegotiated to frame women's migration within normative gender approaches, providing pathways for cultural maintenance. In the early stages of the feminization of migration, we find the initial attempts to reframe migration are powerful; they can challenge, or at least delay, the expansion of women's autonomy that is often associated with migration.