Population aging and migration pose a potential crisis of old-age support in Less DevelopedCountries (LDCs), particularly in rural areas that lack institutional support mechanisms such asnursing homes. Yet recent studies of the impact of
children‘s migration on elders left behind by
migrant kin suggest an alternative conclusion. Rather than creating a healthcare vacuum in ruralareas, migration can actually be a valuable resource for improving health and development(Nyberg-Sørensen, Van Hear, and Engberg-Pederson 2002; Ozden and Schiff 2007). Anemerging literature has begun to address such effects, generally finding better health amongthose elders with migrant children than those without (Kuhn 2005; Nguyen, Yeoh and Toyota2006). This literature, however, has yet to address issues of self-selection bias, whereby thoseindividuals most likely to remain in good health are also most likely to have migrant children,
making it difficult to establish whether children‘s migration actually causes better health.
Social and demographic researchers have grown increasingly concerned with establishingcausal relationships between individual behaviors and health outcomes (Bhrolcháin 2001;Lieberson 1987, 1991; Link and Phelan 1995; McMichael 1999; Raftery 2001; Sobel 2000).Establishing causation is particularly challenging for a behavior like migration, which is bothembedded in, and determined by, a nexus of social and economic advantages and disadvantagesthat also directly or indirectly affect health (Curran 2002; Curran and Saguy 2001; Portes andSensenbrenner 1993). While demand for migrants is exogenously driven by labor markets,supply is determined by national and regional variations; observed micro-level factors such asgender, kinship, socioeconomic status, and health itself; and un-measurable latent factors thatcould include aggression, risk-seeking, and savvy (Curran and Rivero-Fuentes 2003; Knodel andSaengtienchai 2005; Massey 1988, 1990, 1999). While many studies have addressed causation