Remittances in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Africa: New Theory and Evidence from Western Kenya

Nancy Luke, Brown University

Numerous studies focus on social ties that migrants maintain with their origin households and communities as determinants of remittance behavior. Absent are investigations of new, non-familial ties that migrants form in urban destinations and how these compete for migrants’ resources. In sub-Saharan Africa, male migrants often enter into nonmarital sexual partnerships that involve the financial exchange of money and gifts. Using both quantitative and qualitative data from urban Kenya, we find that financial transfers to sexual partners reduce remittances to rural households. We present additional evidence that serious nonmarital partners serve as substitutes for familial emotional support in the city, explaining much of the negative relationship between transfers and remittances. Financial transfers have been linked to risky sexual behavior. Thus, non-familial ties in urban Kenya may have short-term repercussions for rural families who are dependent on migrant remittances, as well as longer-term consequences for families whose migrant sons contract HIV.

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Presented in Session 14: Remittances and Risk in Internal Migration