Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Role of Migration and Single Motherhood in Upper Secondary Education in Mexico

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Role of Migration and Single Motherhood in Upper Secondary Education in Mexico

Article excerpt

We investigated the link between migration, family structure, and the risk of dropping out of upper secondary school in Mexico. Using two waves of the Mexican Family Life Survey, which includes 1,080 upper secondary students, we longitudinally modeled the role of family structure in the subsequent risk of dropping out, focusing on the role of migration in single motherhood. We found that children living without a father because of international migration or divorce or separation are at a greater risk relative to children in 2-parent households. Economic characteristics of the household provide a partial explanation for children living in single-mother households because of divorce or separation but do not explain the greater risk of dropping out for children with fathers in the United States.

Key Words: divorce, education, household structure, Mexico, migration, single motherhood.

Because of the substantial proportion of children growing up with a single mother, numerous studies in the United States and Europe have examined the consequences of single parenthood or motherhood for children's education (Borgers, Dronkers, & Van Praag, 1996; Ginther & Pollak, 2004; Kieman, 1992; McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994). Although there are differences in the magnitude depending on the context, a consistent finding is that children living with a single mother, especially because of divorce, demonstrate worse educational outcomes than children from intact families. The term single mother, for the purpose of the research presented here, refers to a woman with at least one child and no co-resident husband or partner.

In general, research to date has focused on the United States and some European countries, comparing single-mother families because of divorce, nonmarital childbearing, and widowhood to two-parent families. Some effort has been made to compare distinct causes of single parenthood, such as the death of a spouse versus divorce, to better understand variation in the relationship between family structure and children's education (Biblarz & Gottainer, 2000; Borgers et al., 1996). In a non-U.S. or nonEuropean context such as Mexico, however, a nontrivial amount of single motherhood is attributable to an additional cause: migration.

To women who are left with children, the migration of a spouse is a distinct pathway to single motherhood, the implications of which are poorly understood. Research has identified the migration of family members to be an important factor in the schooling outcomes of children (Kandel & Kao, 2001 ; Kuhn, 2006), but the links between these findings and the broader literature on single parenthood have not been made. These connections are crucial in some contexts, as the role of migration in shaping family structure may be equal to divorce or separation in terms of magnitude but distinct in terms of consequences for children. In contrast to separation because of marital or relationship disruption, parents separated because of migration are often married or in stable relationships. Little research has empirically compared the effect of having an parent absent because of migration to the effects of other types of single-parent families, limiting our understanding of the intersection of migration, family structure, and child development.

In this paper, we extend the literature on single parenthood by explicitly examining the absence of a father because of migration along with separation and divorce in a high migration, nonU. S. or non-European context: Mexico. As the country sending the highest number of migrants to the United States, a majority of which are male (Massey, Durand, & Malone, 2002), international migration plays an important role in the creation of single-mother households. There is also a substantial level of domestic migration in Mexico's recent history. A study of rural Mexico shows that a quarter of households in the Mexico National Rural Household Survey conducted in 2002 had at least one internal migrant (Taylor & Mora, 2006). …

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