Moving to despair? Migration and well-being in Pakistan

Joyce Chen, Katrina Kosec, Valerie Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Internal migration has the potential to substantially increase incomes, especially for the poor in developing countries, and yet migration rates remain low. We evaluate the impact of internal migration on both objective and subjective measures of well-being using a unique longitudinal study in rural Pakistan spanning 1991–2013. We account for selection using covariate matching. Migrants have roughly 35–40 percent higher consumption, yet are less likely to report being happy, calm and/or in excellent health, and more likely to report having been sick recently. Our results suggest that deteriorating physical health coupled with feelings of stress and relative deprivation underlie the disparity between objective and subjective well-being. Thus, despite substantial monetary gains from migration, people may be happier and less mentally distressed by remaining at home. If traditional market mechanisms cannot reduce psychic costs, it may be more constructive to address regional inequality by shifting production – rather than workers – across space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-203
Number of pages18
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Income
  • Internal migration
  • Pakistan
  • Wealth
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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