Migration and Child Development

In response to deficiencies in economic, political, and/or social standing, many parents from the developing world use migration as a means to improve their condition and the future prospects of their children. The monetary remittances that are generated through economic migration are a major mechanism for alleviating chronic poverty in these settings. However, the benefits derived by remittances are often diminished by negative impacts attributable to parental absences. Migration by its very nature places heavy burdens on left-behind family members, particularly young children, that can cause permanent harm related to under-nutrition rather than the improved future that their parents envisioned. Undernutrition suffered in utero and during infancy can lead to diminished cognitive ability and physical stature, reduced economic productivity, and higher risk of non-communicable disease in adulthood. This Pathway to Independence Award provides Dr. Jason Davis the opportunity to improve his knowledge of maternal and child health and development in lesser developed world settings, bolster his skills in econometric research methods, and expand his understanding of migration outside of the Americas. He will use these skills and knowledge to leverage his in situ migration research expertise in Central America to complete the following aims for a Nicaraguan context: (1) to quantify the impact of parental absence(s) versus remittance transfers on left-behind children’s well-being as measured by three indicators of physical development (stunting, wasting, and underweight), and (2) to identify the extent to which the combination of parental absences with the infusion of remittances are beneficial or detrimental to left-behind children’s physical development under three types of economic migration (internal migration, South-North migration to the US, and South-South migration to Costa Rica). A third aim entails expanding the project to capture migration dynamics in other areas of the globe that experience different migration dynamics and maintain high incidences of undernutrition. The availability of contemporary and extensive panel data for Nepal, the Philippines, and Uganda will allow Davis to expand the investigation to generalize initial research aims globally.

Principal Investigator: Linda S. Adair

Other Investigators: Jason Davis

Funding Source: NIH

Grant Number: K99HD079586

Funding Period: 2/11/2015 - 1/31/2017

Primary Research Area: Demography

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