Determinants of Mexican-Origin Dropout: The Roles of Mexican Latino/a Destinations and Immigrant Generation

Abstract

Adolescents of Mexican origin have higher than average school dropout rates, but the risk of school non-enrollment among this subgroup varies substantially across geographic areas. This study conducts a multilevel logistic regression analysis of data from the 2005–2009 American Community Survey to evaluate whether spatial heterogeneity in school non-enrollment rates among Mexican-origin youth (n = 71,269) can be attributed to the histories of states and local areas as Mexican Latino/a receiving gateways. This study also determines whether the association between new destinations and school non-enrollment varies within the Mexican-origin population by nativity and duration of residence. Net of background controls, the risk of non-enrollment does not differ significantly between Mexican-origin youth living in states that are newer Mexican Latino/a gateways versus those in more established destinations, in part because Mexican-origin school non-enrollment rates are heterogeneous across newer destination states. At the more local Public Use Microdata Area level, however, Mexican-origin youth in newer gateways have a higher risk of non-enrollment than those in established destinations, revealing the importance of local-level contexts as venues for integration. The disparity in non-enrollment between Mexican-origin youth in new versus established destination PUMAs is apparent for all generational groups, but is widest among 1.25-generation adolescents who arrived in the country as teenagers, suggesting that local new destinations are particularly ill-equipped to deal with the educational needs of migrant newcomers.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The term “black” in this analysis refers to non-Latino/a blacks. Some Mexican-origin youth may also identify racially as black. However, in this paper, the term black refers to youth who were identified as black on the ACS race question and non-Latino on the Hispanic question.

  2. 2.

    The U.S.-born category includes both 2nd- and 3rd- and higher-generation Mexican-origin adolescents. The elimination of the parental birthplace question from census questionnaires in 1980 makes it difficult to identify the immigrant 2nd, 3rd, and higher generations in census data (Hirschman 1994). The parental record matching technique helps identify parental birthplace, but only for the subset of adolescents that were living with at least one parent in the household. Because the immigrant generational status of U.S.-born Mexican-origin youth who did not live with a parent in the household, or of those living in single-parent households where the foreign-born parent was not present in the household, cannot be identified, all U.S.-born Mexican-origin youth were classified as members of the U.S.-born 2nd and higher generation.

  3. 3.

    The Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) was used to identify the level of parental education attainment (mother’s attainment, father’s attainment, or parent with the highest level of attainment) that provided the best fit for predicting non-enrollment among young adults in intact households (Raftery 1995). In intact households, the educational attainment level of the parent with the highest level of education yielded the lowest BIC value and thus provided the best model fit.

  4. 4.

    For the state-level measure of average unemployment, the average yearly BLS and BEA estimates from the years 2005–2009 were used. Many state unemployment rates rose substantially in 2009, due to the Great Recession. Models were estimated separately using average unemployment rates from 2005–2009, the unemployment rate only in 2005 (pre-recession), and the unemployment rate only in 2009 (onset of the recession). The results are robust to the choice of unemployment control variable and are also robust to the inclusion or exclusion of the unemployment rate control, both at the state and PUMA levels. All models also control for year fixed effects, which should account for potential recession-related impacts.

  5. 5.

    Some PUMAs in the 2005–2009 ACS did not have any black 15–17 year-old cases. The black youth non-enrollment levels in areas with no black youth were coded as 0.0%. The results are robust to the exclusion of Mexican-origin youth living in PUMAs with fewer than n = 50 black 15–17 year-old cases (n = 17,488 Mexican-origin cases).

  6. 6.

    Several PUMAs had few Mexican-origin 15–17 year-old cases. For instance, 200 out of 529 PUMAs (37.8% of all PUMAs) had 10 or fewer Mexican-origin 15–17 year-old cases. These cases were retained in the analysis, given that multilevel models allow for the inclusion of large proportions of level-2 units with small numbers of cases, so long as there is a sufficient number of level-2 units overall (Bell et al. 2010).

  7. 7.

    In states with small Mexican-origin populations, such as Maine, Vermont, and Washington D.C., Mexican-origin non-enrollment rates of 0.0% are due to small sample sizes.

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Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by the Institute of Education Sciences (Grant Nos. R305B090012, R305A150027) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant Nos. R24 HD042828, T32 HD007543, R24 HD42849, T32 HD007081-35).

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Ackert.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 5.

Table 5 Mean individual and household characteristics of Mexican-origin, non-Latino white, and non-Latino black 15–17 year-olds, 2005–2009 ACS

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Ackert, E. Determinants of Mexican-Origin Dropout: The Roles of Mexican Latino/a Destinations and Immigrant Generation. Popul Res Policy Rev 36, 379–414 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-016-9422-0

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Keywords

  • Immigration/migration
  • Immigrant destinations
  • Dropout
  • Latinos/Hispanics