Migration and Bequest Decisions
: Theory and Evidence from the Bolivian Altiplano

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Economics and Business Management


Permanent migration is one of the key aspects of modern growth and economic development. However, leaving one's village does not automatically imply severing all links with its members. Most migrants keep strong ties with their family members who stayed behind and remit a substantial part of their income to their communities of origin. Moreover, many migrants try to maintain their land rights which are conditional on community membership in their villages. They work in the informal sector implying that they have no contract and very low job security. In this environment of high uncertainty, being able to return to their communities may be an important fall-back option.

This thesis focuses on the links between the migrants and their communities of origin. The three chapters are based on original data collected in the Bolivian Highlands at both the level of the migrants and the level of the communities of origin. We show that the poorest and most vulnerable migrants are prevented from maintaining land rights in communities with corporate landownership. Our theoretical model predicts that this exclusive outcome is most likely when urban growth is unaccompanied by rural development. Furthermore, we find that, in line with our theoretical model, the bequest and migration decisions are linked at the level of the family. In particular, migrants who were pushed or forced to migrate by their parents have a lower probability to be excluded from land inheritance, irrespective of whether they send remittances. Finally, we show that sharing demands from their wider network prevent migrants from remitting to their parents the amount they would choose to send out of altruism. Family networks at migration destination prove to be particularly detrimental.
Date of Award20 Sept 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SponsorsUniversity of Namur
SupervisorJean-Philippe PLATTEAU (Supervisor), Mathias HUNGERBUHLER (President), Jean-Marie BALAND (Jury), CATHERINE GUIRKINGER (Jury), Steven Durlauf (Jury) & François Bourguignon (Jury)


  • Migration
  • Land access
  • Inheritance
  • Remittances
  • Family economics

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