An increasing number of young children are left behind globally as their parents migrate for new labor opportunities; while these children may benefit from increased household income, their health may be negatively affected by parental absence, and further influenced by their community context. This project seeks to understand how the effects of parental migration on the health of children left behind are shaped by community social, structural, and demographic characteristics. The results of this project will allow child health programs and policies to better address the impacts of out migration and community context on children's health and development.
As migration rates rise globally, this widespread population movement has profound demographic and health consequences, including for children left behind. Migration may be beneficial for a child's health if the family enjoys greater income, or harmful if the child is affected negatively by a parent's absence. The degree to which migration advantages or disadvantages children's health is likely determined in part by the context where the child lives. Though the migration and child health literature is growing, it has largely failed to consider how community context affects this relationship. Studying the links between migration and health requires detailed measures over time to separate the influence of migration from other concurrent changes happening in the household and community. Therefore, the objective of the proposed research is to examine how multiple aspects of community context shape the relationship between parents' migration and the health of children left behind, using sophisticated analytical approaches to study this complex phenomenon. This project uses data from a panel study in a migrant-sending area. With the availability of detailed data on children, families, and communities over two decades, this provides a unique opportunity to study these questions in three specific aims. The first research aim will improve upon prior estimates of the effects of parents' migration on the health of children left behind by appropriately accounting for community-level factors that shape the relationships between migration, family, and child health over time. The second research aim will investigate the role of specific dimensions of community context, including infrastructure, migration patterns, social networks, and other social and demographic characteristics. The third research aim will examine how a special type of community factor, shocks such as armed conflict and natural disasters, affect the relationship between parents'migration and children's health.
This aim will build knowledge of how such disasters affect children's health in the context of migration. Advanced epidemiologic methods, spatial analysis, and event history modeling will be used in these analyses. This research is integrated with a training plan that emphasizes advanced causal inference techniques, specifying community effects on health, and designing survey research through coursework and formal and informal mentoring. This training will prepare the PI to independently conduct policy-relevant, innovative research to the understand the effects of population dynamics and community context on children's health and development. Migration is an increasingly important consideration for policymakers and others seeking to improve child health globally. This research will enhance our understanding of the implications of parental migration for the health of children left behind, and generate rigorous evidence for effective child health interventions.
This project is administered at the University of Michigan