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Migration and Contraception among Mexican Women: Assessing Selection, Disruption, and Adaptation

Abstract

Despite the sizeable impact of migration on childbearing, less is known about how it shapes contraceptive use undergirding fertility. We utilize binational survey data collected in 2006/7 by the Migration, Gender, and Health among Immigrant Latinos in Durham, NC study to assess how selection, disruption, and adaptation shape contraceptive use among Mexican migrant women. We address selectivity with respect to both socio-demographic and formative sexual initiation characteristics, comparing migrants to non-migrants in Mexico. We examine the disruptive effect of migration on contraception among migrant women sexually initiated in Mexico. Finally, we compare current methods between Mexican migrants and non-migrants to assess adaptation to U.S. contraceptive practices. We find migrant selectivity is less important than context in shaping immigrant women’s contraceptive practices, though migrant women sexually initiated in the United States exhibit earlier and higher levels of contraceptive use than their migrant peers initiated in Mexico. Migration also disrupts contraceptive trajectories. Many migrants discontinue contraceptive use pre-migration in response to their husbands’ solo migration. Partner separation also reduces contraceptive use immediately after migration. Finally, migrants show numerous signs of adaptation to the U.S. context, mainly via the adoption of oral contraception. The main obstacle for contraceptive use in Durham is lack of information about where to obtain it. Efforts to improve immigrants’ reproductive health should recognize the deleterious effect of policies encouraging family separation. Health care must reach immigrant women soon after arrival, be attuned to pre-migration contraceptive practices, and recognize the unique vulnerabilities of women migrating at older ages.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We also explored the influence of English language ability on contraceptive practices. However, variation in English fluency was very limited in our sample, with few women reporting speaking English well (5.1%) or very well (1.5%), and most speaking either very little (36.5%) or no English (56.8). Moreover, levels of current contraceptive use did not differ significantly between women who spoke English well/very well (57.1%) relative to those who spoke little/no English (58.3%). More importantly, English language ability was highly colinear with age at arrival, making it impossible to estimate their separate effects. It is, thus, worth noting that an important mechanism linking age at arrival to contraceptive practices is potentially its association with English fluency.

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Correspondence to Rebecca A. Schut.

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Flippen, C.A., Schut, R.A. Migration and Contraception among Mexican Women: Assessing Selection, Disruption, and Adaptation. Popul Res Policy Rev (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-021-09661-8

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Keywords

  • Migrants
  • Contraception
  • Sexual behavior
  • United States
  • Latin America