Abstract: This study explores the relationship between migration and household resilience during a global crisis that eliminated the option to migrate. We link prior data from four populations in Bangladesh and Nepal to new phone surveys conducted during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. While earnings fell universally, pandemic-induced declines were 14–25% greater among previously migration-dependent households and urban migrant workers, with household remittance losses far exceeding official statistics. Heightened economic exposure during the pandemic erased prior gains achieved by transnational migrants and caused fourfold greater prevalence of food insecurity among domestic subsistence migrants. Economic distress spilled over onto non-migrants in high-migration villages and labor markets. We show that migration contributed to economic contagion independent of its role in disease transmission. Losing the option to migrate differentially increased the vulnerability of migration-dependent households during a crisis.
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