Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 221–237 | Cite as

Effects on Household Labor of Temporary Out-migration by Male Household Heads in Nicaragua and Peru: an Analysis of Spot-check Time Allocation Data Using Mixed-effects Models

  • Jeremy M. Koster
  • Mark N. Grote
  • Bruce Winterhalder


When adult males are temporarily away from the household, observational evidence suggests cross-cultural and intra-cultural variation in the effects of their absence on the labor of other household members. In subsistence-based economies, we predict that other adolescent or older members will work more in essential production activities that otherwise would be performed by the missing men. We test this hypothesis using spot-check time allocation datasets from rural Nicaragua and Peru and the methodology of mixed-effects statistical models. In Nicaragua, we find that the absence of male household heads rarely necessitates substitute labor by household co-residents, apparently because men typically time their absences to coincide with the non-peak agricultural season. In Peru, the absence of male household heads results in increased men’s work by co-residents only under unusual circumstances, as households apparently rely on other strategies to mitigate for the loss of labor. In addition to the comparative empirical analysis of the two cases, we show how mixed-effects models allow for individual heterogeneity and data structures that confound more familiar statistical techniques and occasionally produce spurious results. Mixed-effects modeling techniques will be necessary if we are to realize the analytic potential of the extensive, standardized time allocation datasets gathered by anthropologists.


Time allocation Spot check Scan sampling Migration Labor Cross-cultural Mixed-effects modeling 



Fieldwork in Nicaragua was funded by a Fulbright student grant, the National Science Foundation (Dissertation Improvement Award #0413037), the Hill Foundation, and a William Sanders dissertation grant. Fieldwork in Peru was funded by the National Science Foundation (BNS-8313190). A grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0963752) facilitated this collaborative analysis. We thank Maria Fox for formatting the supplemental file.

Supplementary material

10745_2012_9549_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (456 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 456 kb)
10745_2012_9549_MOESM2_ESM.txt (44 kb)
ESM 2 (TXT 44.2 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy M. Koster
    • 1
  • Mark N. Grote
    • 2
  • Bruce Winterhalder
    • 2
  1. 1.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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