Thu, 02/28/2019
C. Leigh Anderson
Ayala Wineman

This document is an initial scoping of the theory and evidence linking digital services to women’s rural-to-urban migration. The document contains (1) a survey of the literature on digital financial services to discern how often this body of literature considers gender-disaggregated impacts on migration, (2) a detailed review of 13 hypotheses regarding the effects of digital services on women’s migration to cities, and (3) an illustrative overview of rural-urban migration patterns and digital technology usage in two East African countries (Ethiopia and Tanzania).

1. Survey of the Literature on Digital Financial Services in Africa

The Partnership for Finance in a Digital Africa has conducted an up-to-date ‘Digital Finance Evidence Gap Map’ of studies related to the impacts of digital finance (Partnership, 2019). We reviewed all 40 studies contained therein to understand whether they consider migration as an outcome of using digital services, whether they consider the migrant population’s usage of digital services, whether their results are gender-disaggregated, and whether they specifically consider women’s migration in their analysis. Full results are found in Appendix A.

Of the 40 studies included in this review:

  • Three studies consider migration as an outcome (Aker et al., 2016; Suri & Jack, 2016; Balderrama & Rocabado, 2015).
  • Five studies include migration as an explanatory variable for remittances and use of digital services (Munyegera & Matsumoto, 2018; Sekabira & Qaim, 2016; Suri & Jack, 2016; Kikulwe et al., 2014; Munyegera & Matsumoto, 2014).
  • 22 studies disaggregate their results by gender (Bastian et al., 2018; Jack & Habyarimana, 2018; Batista & Vicente, 2017; Breza et al., 2017; Lee et al., 2017; Munyegera & Matsumoto, 2018; Aker et al., 2016; Murendo & Wollni, 2016; Schaner, 2016; Sekabira & Qaim, 2016; Suri & Jack, 2016; Mazer et al., 2016; Balderrama & Rocabado, 2015; Sangaré & Guerin, 2015; Karim & Tyers, 2015; Ky & Rugemintwari, 2015; Bachas et al., 2014; Callen et al., 2014; Kikulwe et al., 2014; Munyegera & Matsumoto, 2014; Scharwatt & Minischetti, 2014; Wandibba et al., 2014).
  • Two studies consider women’s migration or migration from female-headed households in their analysis (Suri & Jack, 2016; Balderrama & Rocabado, 2015).

In our literature review for Section 2, we scanned the gray literature from leading organizations (e.g., UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Bank, Migrating Out of Poverty Consortium, and FAO), conducted keyword-based Scopus searches (detailed in Appendix B), and reviewed a wide set of peer-reviewed academic papers related to either digital technology in developing countries or rural-urban migration. Together with the results of our survey of the ‘Digital Finance Evidence Gap Map,’ we conclude that it is rare to find women’s migration to cities (or the duration of migrant women’s stay in cities) examined as an outcome of digital technology access and usage.

Type of Research: 
Research Brief
Research Topic Category: 
Finance & Investment
Information & Mobile Technology
Geographic focus: 
East Africa Region and Selected Countries

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