, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 891-908

International Labor Migration from a Tropical Development Frontier: Globalizing Households and an Incipient Forest Transition

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Abstract

This study documents labor migration and its impacts on household income, material well-being, and land-use practices in Mexico’s southern Yucatán and examines the relation of labor migration to local forest recovery. Drawing on a 203-household survey in 14 communities, we contrast migrating and non-migrating households, showing that migration earnings substitute for agricultural earnings and that migrating households cultivate significantly less farmland. A larger percentage of migrating households maintain pasture, but, on average, not more hectares. These dynamics are consistent with the decline in deforestation registered in the area for the year 2000. Incipient local forest recovery is considered in light of current forest transition theory, with an examination of three hypothesized paths to forest recovery: economic development, forest scarcity, and smallholder agricultural adjustment. The southern Yucatán case illustrates the need to explicitly incorporate the role of globalizing household economies into forest transition theory.