The other side of the paradox: the effect of migration experience on birth outcomes and infant mortality within Mexico

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Frank, Reanne

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The main aim of this research is to examine the relationship between two population processes, namely how migration experience affects the risk of infant mortality among Mexican infants. The migration process alters both the larger social context within Mexico, as well as the lives of millions of individual Mexicans and their families. Accordingly, migrant status has the potential to alter patterns of social differentiation, which in turn may alter disparities in infant health. I use the Encuesta Nacional de la Dinámica Demográfica (ENADID 1997), a nationally representative demographic survey of the Mexican population, to document the larger relationship between birth outcomes and migration experience within Mexico. The results suggest that infants born into households in which some member had migrated prior to the birth, either to the U.S. or internally within Mexico, exhibit significantly reduced odds for low birth weight and infant mortality. A post-partum hospital survey administered to 565 women in eight different hospitals in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacán is used to investigate the role of monetary support, social support, stress and behavioral factors in contributing to the patterns identified with the demographic survey. I find that the receipt of remittances is one of the mechanisms through which international migration experience improves infant health outcomes, but that these patterns vary by who sends the remittances and their role in supporting the household. The migration of a spouse is found to be negatively related to certain aspects of social support and positively related to increases in maternal stress levels. Women who are closely connected to international migrant streams also display different health behaviors, which offers preliminary evidence that cultural influences may be flowing into Mexico from the United States. Taken together these results provide a strong impetus for recognizing the nuanced and bi-directional nature of the entire migration process and for encouraging future research initiatives that span both sides of the border.