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Patrilocal Residence and Female Labor Supply: Evidence From Kyrgyzstan


Many people live in patrilocal societies, which prescribe that women move in with their husbands’ parents, relieve their in-laws from housework, and care for them in old age. This arrangement is likely to have labor market consequences, in particular for women. We study the effect of coresidence on female labor supply in Kyrgyzstan, a strongly patrilocal setting. We account for the endogeneity of coresidence by exploiting the tradition that youngest sons usually live with their parents. In both OLS and IV estimations, the effect of coresidence on female labor supply is negative and insignificant. This finding is in contrast to previous studies, which found positive effects in less patrilocal settings. We go beyond earlier work by investigating effect channels. In Kyrgyzstan, coresiding women invest more time in elder care than women who do not coreside, and they do not receive parental support in housework.

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  1. 1.

    Nearly three-quarters (74 %) of societies around the world were traditionally patrilocal (Murdock 1967, cited in Baker and Jacobsen 2007). Today, patrilocality is most common in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and South Asia. The share of elderly coresiding with a son and his wife is particularly high in these societies (Ebenstein 2014; Grogan 2013).

  2. 2.

    The list of countries used for this analysis can be found in Table A1 in the online appendix.

  3. 3.

    Additionally, Compton (2015) evaluated the effect of proximity to parents on women’s labor market outcomes. When controlling for the endogeneity of distance to the parents, Compton found that close proximity to parents increases the labor force participation of married women. This study, however, is not fully comparable with the other studies because it focused on proximity to parents rather than coresidence with parents.

  4. 4.

    All children traditionally acquire a share of the parents’ wealth, although in different forms and at different times in their life cycle (Giovarelli et al. 2001).

  5. 5.

    According to information obtained in expert interviews, it was the parents’ duty in Turkic and Mongolian nomadic cultures to allocate a certain number of livestock to their older sons when they got married and to separate them by giving them a yurt. Keeping the sons and their wives in the parents’ yurt would have been impossible given space restrictions. When parents died, it was the youngest son’s duty to bury the parents. In return, he inherited the parents’ yurt and their remaining livestock. This tradition has been adapted in modern-day Kyrgyzstan: married older sons form their own households (possibly after living with their parents for a certain period), and youngest sons stay with the parents and take care of them in old age. It is an open question why we see the tradition being practiced even in ethnic groups that do not have nomadic roots, such as Tajiks or Russians.

  6. 6.

    The first three waves were collected by the German Institute of Economic Research; the fourth wave, by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute; and the fifth wave, by the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops. For detailed information on the survey, see Brück et al. (2014).

  7. 7.

    Adding the 2010 wave to the analysis would be comparably easier because if someone was alive in 2011, she or he must also have been alive in 2010. Yet, this wave was the first wave of the LIK and suffered from some problems during data collection, which were later removed. Importantly for us, the relationship to the household head was wrongly reported in a nonnegligible number of cases.

  8. 8.

    The supplementary data collection in 2014 was implemented by the same survey firm that also implements the data collection of all regular LIK waves. Failure to reinterview was higher in urban than in rural areas. The main reason for attrition is migration of the husband or wife outside Kyrgyzstan (approximately 40 % of cases), followed by failure to meet an interviewee at home, migration within Kyrgyzstan, refusal to be interviewed, death of one of the partners, and end of marriage. As a consequence, our results are essentially restricted to nonmigrants.

  9. 9.

    Categories (1), (2), and (4) are defined in accordance with the Integrated Sample Household Budget and Labour Survey of the National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. Category (3) was added in the LIK because the other three categories missed an important part of self-employment activities. The resulting definition of labor force participation conforms to that of the International Labour Organization.

  10. 10.

    Among the women in our estimation sample, 1.7 % have two occupations, which corresponds to 3.7 % of all those with positive working hours.

  11. 11.

    Among women who coreside with in-laws, 34 % live with only the mother-in-law, 8 % live with only the father-in-law, and 58 % live with both the mother-in-law and the father-in-law. Among the few women who coreside with own parents, 55 % live with their mother and 45 % live with both parents.

  12. 12.

    Basic education consists of four years of primary school and the first five years of secondary school. After basic education, women can continue with two more years of secondary school, potentially followed by tertiary education, or with technical school.

  13. 13.

    “Other ethnicity” mainly comprises Uigurs, Tajiks, and Kazakhs but contains a number of other small ethnic groups as well.

  14. 14.

    Issyk-Kul, Naryn, Talas, Chui, and the capital Bishkek are provinces in the North, and Jalal-Abad, Batken, Osh, and the city Osh are in the South.

  15. 15.

    Because of ethnicity-specific marriage practices (Becker et al. 2017; Nedoluzhko and Agadjanian 2015), we also control for ethnicity when the outcome variable refers to how the marriage was formed.

  16. 16.

    In addition, we use a nonparametric matching method in order to test for differences in premarriage characteristics. We also do not find significant differences (see Table A2 in the online appendix).

  17. 17.

    Divorce is rare in Kyrgyzstan. The divorce rate, according to the 2011 LIK, is 4 %.

  18. 18.

    The list of siblings of all wives and husbands was compiled during the supplementary data collection in 2014, with the aim of identifying the youngest son in every family.

  19. 19.

    As before, we additionally use a nonparametric matching method to test for differences in marriage stability between youngest sons and other sons. In accordance with our parametric result, we do not find a significant difference.

  20. 20.

    As in every IV estimation, the treatment effect has a local interpretation; that is, it is the effect for women who live with the parent generation only because they are married to a youngest son.

  21. 21.

    Only-sons are defined as youngest sons, but we always control for the number of brothers. Deleting only-son observations does not indicate a bias but decreases the precision of our estimates. We hence prefer the specification with all observations included.

  22. 22.

    Controlling for the number of children does not change the results much, though.

  23. 23.

    We also ran an IV estimation for the impact of coresidence on the number of working hours of only those women with positive working hours. The results were again negative but statistically insignificant.

  24. 24.

    The Global Data Lab database (Institute for Management Research, Radboud University 2017) reported a patrilocality index of 0.81 for urban China and 2.55 for rural China. The patrilocality index is the log of the percentage of patrilocal residence divided by the percentage of matrilocal residence. Thus, the larger the value, the more patrilocal is the setting. For comparison, Kyrgyzstan had a mean patrilocality index of 2.31 at the national level in the period 2000–2016.

  25. 25.

    Descriptive statistics of the channel variables can be found in Table A12 in the online appendix.

  26. 26.

    In the 2013 LIK, respondents were asked to report the main caretaker (if not institutionalized childcare) of children aged 0–5. For our sample of women who coreside with their in-laws, grandparents are the main caretakers of young children in 15 % of the cases. Other relatives do not play a major role for childcare.

  27. 27.

    The conditioning variables are neglected because we restrict the analysis to coresiding households and do not use information on being married to the youngest son.


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This work was supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). It is an output of the project “Gender and Employment in Central Asia—Evidence from Panel Data.” The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID or IZA. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support received. Andreas Landmann received additional funding from project LA 3936/1-1 of the German Research Foundation (DFG). We thank Kathryn Anderson, Charles M. Becker, Marc Gurgand, Kristin Kleinjans, Patrick Puhani, and participants of conferences in Bishkek, Chicago, Dresden, and Göttingen for helpful and valuable comments. Many thanks in particular to Damir Esenaliev and Tilman Brück for their support.

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Landmann, A., Seitz, H. & Steiner, S. Patrilocal Residence and Female Labor Supply: Evidence From Kyrgyzstan. Demography 55, 2181–2203 (2018).

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  • Family structure
  • Coresidence
  • Labor supply
  • Patrilocality
  • Kyrgyzstan