The Feminization of Migration and Mental Health of Older Parents Left Behind: Evidence from Indonesia

Sneha Kumar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With female outmigration for work on the rise, it becomes pertinent to examine how the evolving gender composition of labor migrant streams influences the well-being of those left behind at origin. This study investigates whether a daughter's outmigration for work distinctly affects the mental health of older parents left behind, drawing on the case of Indonesia — one of the largest sources of male and female migrant labor in the world. It uses individual fixed effects regressions to model changing mental health outcomes for a representative panel of 2,133 older parents, ages 50 or more, from the 2007–2008 and 2014–2015 Indonesia Family Life Survey. It finds that older parents, specifically older mothers, who had a daughter migrate for work between waves saw a greater increase in depression over time compared to those who had (a) no labor migrant children in either wave, and (b) only labor migrant sons in both waves. Possible reasons for these gendered mental health implications are discussed, including loss of preferred caregivers at origin, concerns about migrant children's precarity at destination, worries about married migrant daughters’ family stability, and anxieties about unmarried migrant daughters engaging in premarital relationships at destination. This study underscores the need to consider gender-based heterogeneities in future investigations on the impact of migration on those left behind, and in social protection efforts for vulnerable elderly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Migration Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Asia
  • depression
  • elderly
  • gender
  • Indonesia
  • left behind
  • migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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