Academic journal article Demographic Research

Gendered Disparities in Mexico-U.S. Migration by Class, Ethnicity, and Geography

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Gendered Disparities in Mexico-U.S. Migration by Class, Ethnicity, and Geography

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Despite increasing participation of women in migration from Mexico to the United States, men still predominate among Mexico-U.S. migrants (Riosmena and Massey 2012), a pattern that has inspired substantial research and debate (Cerrutti and Massey 2001; Curran and Rivero-Fuentes 2003; Donato 1993; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994; Kanaiaupuni 2000). Scholars have argued that this gender disparity in migration is evidence that migration is gendered; that is, patterns of migration reflect gendered norms and understandings, which, in the case of Mexico-U.S. migration, result in the relatively constrained spatial mobility of women (Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994).

The gender disparity in migration masks substantial heterogeneity in the risk of migration among Mexican men and women (Donato 1993; Cerrutti and Massey 2001). This heterogeneity may be structured by gender, meaning that gender may interact with other forms of social status to pattern men's and women's relative risk of migration in systematic ways. For example, female migrants are more positively selected for education than are male migrants (Feliciano 2008; Kanaiaupuni 2000; Rendall and Parker 2013). As a result, the gender disparity in migration is largest among the least educated and smallest among those with the most education.

Like education, other forms of social status may also interact with gender to influence men's and women's relative risk of migration, but we lack studies of how the gender disparity in migration varies across social groups. Mahler and Pessar (2001) propose that scholars consider the "gendered geographies of power" that shape and constrain the relative mobility of women and men along power hierarchies created through economic, social, and geographic processes. In this paper, I examine how the gender disparity in Mexico-U.S. migration varies by class, ethnicity, and geography.

2. Data

Data for this study come from the first two waves of the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS), the first national data source from Mexico to track U.S. migrants between survey waves, which means that migration is observed prospectively, all social characteristics of migrants are measured prior to migration, and U.S. migrants in the second wave of data are representative of Mexicans who were living in Mexico in 2002 and who migrated to the United States by 2005 (Teruel, Rubalcava, and Arenas 2012). This design is important for the study of women's migration in particular, as women are more likely than men to migrate permanently and with their entire households, meaning that they are under-represented in data sources that rely on proxy reports of migration (Ibarraran and Lubotsky 2007). The original MxFLS sample included 35,000 individuals in 8,440 households; the MxFLS achieved a response rate of 96.7% among eligible, sampled households in the first wave (Rubalcava and Teruel 2008).

U.S. migrants in the MxFLS are individuals who migrated "permanently" to the United States between 2002 and 2005, with "permanent" migrations defined as those of a year or longer; specifically, the definition includes migrants who had been living in the United States or had plans to live there for at least a year at the time of the wave 2 survey, in 2005 (Teruel, Rubalcava, and Arenas 2012). Limiting to migrant trips of a year or longer means that temporary migrants who maintain a permanent residence in Mexico are not included. Research on circular migration and settlement suggests that men predominate among temporary Mexico-U.S. migrants to a greater extent than they do among longer-duration (or permanent) migrants (Massey 1986; Ibarraran and Lubotsky 2008). Excluding temporary migrants from this analysis should therefore produce smaller gender imbalances than would be observed in data including both temporary and longer-duration migrants. In wave 2, the MxFLS tracked U.S. migrants through multiple visits to origin households and through re-contact information obtained in Wave 1. …

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