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Abstract

The growing flow of migrants’ remittances has generated much interest in understanding the socio-economic consequences of household migration for individuals and families in migrant-sending areas. In this paper, I examine the effect of household migration on health status, as measured by nutritional status, of adults who have remained behind in rural Indonesia, a setting with a high rate of out-migration and poor nutritional profiles. Assuming that remittances may improve household economic resources and thus change dietary intake and health-related investment, household migration may be associated with the risks of both undernutrition and overnutrition. The analyses use longitudinal data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey and fixed-effect regressions. The results show that adults in emigrant households were significantly less susceptible to being underweight than those in non-migrant households, but that they did not have an increased risk of being overweight. The improved nutritional status was restricted to people in households with labour migrants, highlighting the role of remittances in improving nutritional intake. The health gain was also concentrated among women, increased with the number of out-migrants and was revealed over time as remittances arrived. Overall, this study demonstrates the beneficial role of household migration, and especially the resulting remittances, in the health status of household members in resource-constrained settings. Improving transfers of remittances would be helpful in reducing the problem of undernutrition in poor migrant-sending areas.