Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes completed her research project about the challenges transnational U.S.-born children face when returned to Mexico and how they are faring compared to their Mexican peers, as well as why these findings are relevant for policy makers.
We spoke with Catalina to learn more about her research.
Tell us about your research.
We examine transnational children’s access to basic healthcare and education services, and barriers encountered in accessing such services. Between 2001 and 2018, more than 5.5 million Mexican migrants were removed from the United States or returned to Mexico with their families as immigration enforcement escalated (Nowrasteh, 2019). Learning how this transition affected their children, most of them U.S. citizens, is a policy-relevant topic for both the United States and Mexico, as well as for the border region.
What are some of the challenges U.S.-born children face in order to gain access to health and education once they return to Mexico?
One of the main challenges we can document is the lack of proper documentation. In the case of access to health, U.S.-born children with a foreign or no birth certificate are 62% and 67% less likely to be affiliated to a health care provider than similar children with a Mexican birth certificate, respectively. Although this documentation barrier seems to be slightly worse for children whose household head arrived more recently to Mexico (between 2010 and 2015), its negative impact persists even among children whose household head arrived before 2010, which is particularly worrisome.
In terms of education, U.S.-born children are not at a significant disadvantage, compared to their Mexican counterparts. Nevertheless, among U.S.-born children, lack of proper documentation still seems to be keeping some of these “invisible children” out of school and pushing them into other activities, like working for pay (mostly for males), or at home (for females).
Were you surprised to find they have a bigger disadvantage in health care access than education?
Not really, after all, many of these children, despite not knowing how to write Spanish in some instances, they have often spoken the language at home and can learn it quickly. We believe the bigger disadvantage in health could be due to a couple of factors. First, the Mexican educational system is highly centralized in comparison to the health care system, a trait that favors a quicker response to policy challenges posed by the influx of transnational children. Second, the educational barriers faced by these “invisible children” has received much more attention in the academic literature, creating greater awareness among policymakers. In contrast, the empirical evidence on their health care access has been sparser.
What impact do you hope this research can have on public policy?
For quite some time now, we have known about the long-term implications of health care and educational investments early in life. Both Mexico and the United States should be invested in guaranteeing proper access to basic educational and health care services to binational children through various policies. For example, in the United States, a more targeted or prioritized immigration enforcement approach, versus an indiscriminate communitywide approach (e.g. raids), could allow many transnational children to grow up in the only country they know. Once in Mexico, given the lack of significant gaps in their school access, the Mexican government could explore focusing its documentation efforts among transnational children through schools, to improve their health care access. Both sets of policies could prove helpful in preventing the loss of critical human capital.
To learn more about this topic and the findings, read more in our policy brief here.
- Becker, Gary S. and Barry R. Chiswick. 1966. “Education and the Distribution of Earnings” American Economic Review 56: 358-369.
- Clark, Damon and Heather Royer. 2013. “The Effect of Education on Adult Mortality and Health: Evidence from Britain” American Economic Review, 103: 2087-2120.
Hoynes, Hilary, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, and Douglas Almond. 2016. “Long-Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net.” American Economic Review, 106 (4): 903-34.
- Nowrasteh, Alex. 2019. “Deportation rates in historical perspective” Cato at Liberty. Available at: https://www.cato.org/blog/deportation-rates-historical-perspective [Accessed on 11/21/2020]
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