, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 1303–1314 | Cite as

Migration and Father Absence: Shifting Family Structure in Mexico

  • Jenna NoblesEmail author


Despite many changing demographic processes in Mexico—declining adult mortality, rising divorce, and rising nonmarital fertility—Mexican children’s family structure has been most affected by rising migration rates. Data from five national surveys spanning three decades demonstrate that since 1976, migration has shifted from the least common to the most common form of father household absence. Presently, more than 1 in 5 children experience a father’s migration by age 15; 1 in 11 experiences his departure to the United States. The proportions are significantly higher among those children born in rural communities and those born to less-educated mothers. The findings emphasize the importance of framing migration as a family process with implications for children’s living arrangements and attendant well-being, particularly in resource-constrained countries. The stability of children’s family life in these regions constitutes a substantial but poorly measured cost of worldwide increases in migration.


Migration Children’s living arrangements Mexican families 



The author is grateful for comments from Elizabeth Frankenberg, Duncan Thomas, Rob Mare, Rubén Hernandez-León, Christine Schwartz, Wendy Sigle-Rushton, Katharine Donato, Amar Hamoudi, and Sheila G. Miller as well as for excellent research assistance from Hillary Caruthers. The author gratefully acknowledges funding from the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and support from the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin. All errors and opinions are those of the author.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin, 4456 Sewell Social SciencesMadisonUSA

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