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International Migration and the Academic Performance of Mexican Adolescents

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We analyze path models of a nationally representative sample of Mexican adolescents in 2008 to explore how migration variables interact with school retention to shape their migration plans, effort in school, and achievement on a standardized measure
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  International Migration and the  Academic Performance of Mexican  Adolescents  Bryant Jensen Brigham Young University  Silvia Giorguli Saucedo El Colegio de M    exico  Eduardo Hern  andez Padilla  Universidad Aut    onoma del Estado de Morelos   We analyze path models of a nationally representative sample of Mex-ican adolescents in 2008 to explore how migration variables interactwith school retention to shape their migration plans, effort in school,and achievement on a standardized measure of Spanish literacy. Among other findings, we discover that more immediate plans areassociated with lower performance for students considering migrationand that this relationship varies by family socioeconomic status. Wealso find that parent migration exposure negatively affects achievementfor some groups. We interpret findings in terms of structural inequali-ties in Mexico and conclude with recommendations to enrich aca-demic learning opportunities for children and youth within migrantfamilies and communities.Many adolescents in Mexico, especially those in rural settings, have par-ents and other relatives who have migrated to the United States over thepast several years. Some policies in Mexico and bilateral agreementsaddress the well-being of these youth, but there is little empirical consen-sus about how family migration influences their schooling opportunitiesin Mexico over time. Some studies find that international family migra-tion improves enrollment and educational attainment (i.e., years of schooling) of Mexican youth remaining behind, whereas others conclude ©  2016 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York. All rights reserved.DOI: 10.1111/imre.12307 IMR   Volume ** Number ** (Fall 2016):1–38  1  the opposite. The research is inconclusive (Portes and MacLead 1996;Giorguli et al. 2014).The principle mechanisms cited to explain relationships betweenfamily migration and educational outcomes include remittances and edu-cational aspirations (Sawyer 2013, 2016). Some theorize that the incomereceived via remittances increases family resources and delays the need foryoung adolescents to enter the labor force, allowing them to increase theiraspirations to remain longer in school (Kandel and Kao 2001; Hansonand Woodruff 2003; Sawyer 2013, 2016).Studying this premise, Sawyer (2016) recently found in a rural Oax-acan community that youth enrollment in school and educational aspira-tions of mothers for their children, after controlling for social classvariables, were not affected by remittances. Parental aspirations and youthenrollment, however, were significantly associated with higher levels of maternal education and household wealth. Thus, Sawyer (2013) asserts“money is not enough” to improve schooling opportunities for ruralyouth in migrant Mexican communities.Other studies suggest a negative effect of family migration on youthenrollment and attainment (Kandel and Massey 2002; McKenzie andRapoport 2006; Miranda 2007; Lopez-Cordova, Tokamn, and Verhoogen2008). The argument in this case is that the separation from one or bothparents linked to international migration contributes to less favorable aca-demic milieu. Family separation caused by international migration leadsto decreased student motivation and engagement (Menj  ıvar and Abrego2009), although conditions within the family (e.g., maternal education,community resources) can buffer these negative effects (Jensen 2007). Itappears, for example, that remittances interact with family migrationexposure in ways that lead to (1) higher adolescent enrollments in house-holds where both parents are at home and (2) lower enrollments in house-holds where only the mother or neither parent lives with the child(Giorguli and Guti  errez 2012). Gender also appears to play a significantrole. Young men who consider migration as a   rite de passage   are often lessengaged with schooling when the migrant father is absent, and in generaldemonstrate a lower probability of staying in school. This seems to espe-cially be the case in communities with high levels of historic migration tothe United States (Giorguli et al. 2010; Giorguli and Guti  errez 2011).Research in other developing countries with high prevalence of out-migration has found similar effects of international migration on educa-tional opportunity for youth remaining behind. They have found, for 2 I NTERNATIONAL  M IGRATION  R  EVIEW   example, more persistence in school and a delay in labor market entry among youth living in migrant households, due to remittances thatincrease household income (Battistella and Conaco [1998] in the Philip-pines; Cox and Ureta [2003] in El Salvador; Kuhn [2006] in Bangladesh;Lu and Treiman [2007] in South Africa; Mansuri [2006] in Pakistan; Yabiku and Agadjanian [2013] in Mozambique).This work also demonstrates some negative consequences of family migration on educational opportunity. They highlight a strain betweenthe potential positive effect of parental migration via remittances and thenegative consequences of family separation (Lu 2012; Yabiku and Agadja-nian 2013), a differentiated effect of family migration depending on whomigrates (i.e., parents or siblings; Lu 2012), and other unintended conse-quences, such as unpaid labor among adolescents (Acosta 2011). We alsosee gender differences in the effect of international migration on educa-tional opportunity, mostly related to cultural gender norms of thecommunity of srcin (Acosta 2011; Yabiku and Agadjanian 2013).Most prior research in Mexico and other developing countriesanalyzes the effects of family migration on the amount of schooling youth and young adults receive. They study how family and personalmigration histories are associated with educational opportunity in termsof the  quantity   of schooling   —   that is, current enrollments, highschool completion rates, years of schooling. We move beyond thatapproach in this study to model associations between migration vari-ables and the  quality   of students’ schooling   —   that is, performance ona standardized measure of Spanish literacy   —   as they transition frommiddle to high school. We frame students’ academic development within nested ecologies. At each level, a series of processes support (i.e., protective factors) or hin-der (i.e., risk factors) the quality of students’ academic learning (Bronfen-brenner 1974; Jensen 2007). We situate relationships between migrationvariables and students’ academic dispositions and performance within thismodel. We merge 2010 Mexican Census data with a nationally represen-tative sample of ninth-grade students in Mexico. These data are especially useful in determining how migration variables interact with other risk andprotective factors associated with student achievement. 1 The questions we address include: 1 “Achievement” and “performance” are used interchangeably throughout this paper.M IGRATION AND  A  CHIEVEMENT  3  1 How do student plans to emigrate, family migration history,school/community migration prevalence, and the school effort andretention of ninth-grade Mexicans interact to explain their academicperformance in school?2 How do these relationships vary by maternal education levels (a proxy for social class) and levels of urbanicity?Our analyses are driven by three complementary hypotheses: H1: Modeled migration variables will be significantly associated with achievement.  We expect that family migration history, community migration his-tory, and student migration plans 2 will demonstrate negative relationshipswith student achievement  —   that more exposure and more certain andimmediate migration plans will be associated with lower achievement inschool. Our hypotheses are informed by a dynamic theory of migrantdecision-making (Massey et al. 1993; De Jong 2000), which asserts thatindividual, household,  and   community processes bear on one’s decision toemigrate. Past decisions by family and community members, in particular,bear on youths’ decision to migrate (i.e., “culture of migration,” Kandeland Massey 2002), and the decision to abandon school (to migrate orotherwise) is associated with lower performance (Lucas 2001). We expectthe decision  –  performance relationship to be complemented by exposureeffects  —  that migration prevalence within the family and community willexplain some achievement variation, similar to the ways migration expo-sure negatively affects attainment in Mexico (McKenzie and Rapoport2006; Giorguli and Serratos 2009; Meza and Pederzini 2009; Giorguliand Guti  errez 2011). H2: Migration relationships with achievement will be significantly mediated.  We hypothesize that more proximal processes will significantly medi-ate the effects of distal migration processes on achievement. In otherwords, we expect that (1) the effects of family and community migration 2 Student survey questions concern international, not internal, migration. But our hypothe-ses for achievement relationships with internal migration are similar.4 I NTERNATIONAL  M IGRATION  R  EVIEW   on achievement will be mediated (at least partially) by student migrationplans, and (2) the relationship 3 between student migration plans andachievement will be partially mediated by student dispositions (self-reported effort and retention). The work of Haberkorn (1981), Menj  ıvarand Abrego (2009), and others inform these meditational hypotheses.These studies demonstrate relationships between family migration andpsychosocial processes, and how these can explain the effects of interna-tional migration on educational outcomes. H3: Migration   –  achievement relationships will vary by socioeconomic status and urbanicity. Communities and schools in Mexico, as in other countries, arehighly stratified by socioeconomic status (SES) and urbanicity, accounting for a large portion of the overall variation in students’ academic achieve-ment (Backoff et al. 2007). Mexican students in urban and higher-SESschools have greater access to material and human resources than those inrural and lower-SES schools. Those with greater resources tend to performnotably higher on standardized achievement tests than those with fewerresources (INEE 2012).Moreover, reasons for migrating internationally tend to vary by SESand urbanicity as well (e.g., Findley 1987; Massey 1990), particularly when per capita income between sending and receiving countries differsgreatly (Stark 1991). During this transition to high school, we expect thataspiring professional migrants (higher SES, mainly in urban settings) seeeducational success as relevant to their migration decision (Quinn andRubb 2005), whereas low-SES and rural students are more likely to seemigration as an escape valve from school (Kandel and Kao 2001). Indeed,the social processes of migration differ between urban and rural commu-nities in Mexico (Fussell and Massey 2004); the density of social migrantnetworks tends to be much stronger in rural than in urban communities,whereas school quality is much lower.Thus, our third hypothesis is that associations between migrationexposure, migration plans, and school achievement will vary by family SES and urbanicity. We expect that migration exposure for youth from 3 Modeled relationships between migration plans, student effort, and achievement are cor-relational rather than directional because of data limitations. Survey questions concerning plans and effort were in the present tense, gathered concurrently with achievement testing.M IGRATION AND  A  CHIEVEMENT  5
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