The Gendered Relationship Between Migration and NCD Risk: Evidence from a rural South African population



Chantel Pheiffer, Sociology graduate student and PSTC predoctoral trainee

This dissertation chapter uses Wave 1 data from the Migrant Health Follow-Up Study (MHFUS) to determine the consequences of migration for blood pressure (BP) among a young rural South African cohort. The sample includes 1,056 men and 1,076 women aged 18 to 39 who were randomly sampled from the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance Site (HDSS) located in rural northeast South Africa in 2017. I first establish that migrant women indeed have higher BP than rural-staying women—and that this phenomenon is unique to women, i.e. migrant men do not have higher BP than rural-staying men. Next, I aim to explain the mechanisms by which migration negatively influences health among female migrants by examining whether, and to what extent, poor health among women is mediated by employment, family and household composition, social support and remittances, migration experience, and geography and housing conditions. Men’s health is particularly sensitive to household composition—including total household size and the presence of children. More adults in the household is associated with significantly lower BP, while more children is associated with higher BP.  I also find that sending remittances is protective against elevated BP among men. An entirely different set of factors matter for women’s BP. For women, employment is protective against elevated BP, while residence in Tembisa and household headship is associated with higher BP. Importantly, I find that none of the mechanisms examined explain the health penalty migrant women exhibit in terms of BP when compared with rural-staying women. Migration has a large, significant, and robust negative association with BP among women.

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