Gender, Migration and Urban Development in Costa Rica: The Case of Guanacaste


Chant, Sylvia H. 1991. “Gender, Migration and Urban Development in Costa Rica: The Case of Guanacaste.” Geoforum 22 (3): 237-53.

Author: Sylvia H. Chant


This paper explores the reasons for urban growth in a peripheral region of Central America: Guanacaste province, north-west Costa Rica. While one of the major factors responsible for urbanisation in other parts of Latin America has been the expansion of economic activities in urban areas, the continued dominance of rural employment among the poor in Guanacasteco towns and high rates of seasonal out-migration to labour markets elsewhere in the country suggest that other factors may be more important. On the basis of an in-depth survey of 350 low-income households in three towns in the province, Liberia, Canas, and Santa Cruz, this paper finds that rural-urban movement in Guanacaste is much more strongly linked to the reproductive (e.g. housing, welfare) needs of household survival, than productive (e.g. employment, income) imperatives. The spatial divisions of labour which arise between household members in these different aspects of survival closely correspond with gender divisions of labour: men form the bulk of seasonal labour migrants, while women tend to remain behind in the towns to manage domestic work and child-care. This paper is concerned to explore the reasons for these associations, and their implications for women. In highlighting the importance of taking gender into account to explain the increasingly differentiated nature of urban growth in Latin America, this paper also stresses the need to examine in greater depth the factors contributing to current patterns of gender-selective migration in the continent.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Gender, Gender Roles, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Costa Rica

Year: 1991

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