Go your own way: Migration, consumption and status

Measuring how business can empower female migrants

Given its importance, many studies have sought to examine the phenomenon of migration. Arguably, the most important limitation of the existing literature is its focus on economic outcomes of migration, largely ignoring social outcomes among migrants and their communities of origin. The purpose of this research is to study the social impact that migration has on migrants and their communities as well as to examine the impact of economic migration on consumption outcomes.

The intervention

This research looks at a quasi-experiment involving organised migration of female textile workers from rural parts of Orissa to urban Bangalore and proposes consumption as a unique marketing mechanism to explain the social impact of migration on women’s status. The researchers show the proportion of income consumed by the migrant affects her perceptions of her status and behaviour – empowering the migrant – whilst the proportion of income consumed by her family affects perceptions of her status among community and family members.

The impact

This research has the potential to transform the lives of less advantaged people through business practices by exploring the positive and empowering role that businesses can play in migration. It contributes to further understanding and quantification of the social impact of the global phenomenon of migration, and the role that consumption plays in female empowerment. In doing so, it captures both economic and social outcomes as a consequence of a business intervention.


  • Rajesh Chandy, Professor of Marketing, London Business School
  • Om Narasimhan, Professor of Marketing, London School of Economics and Political Science

Iris Steenkamp is a PhD student in Marketing, graduating class 2021 at London Business School. Iris’s research explores the impact of marketing (as an intervention or a mechanism) on business, consumption, and social outcomes, such as gender empowerment, in emerging markets. Her current projects include field experiments and intervention studies in India and South Africa.

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