The interrelation between social context, social structure, and social capital in international migration flows from Mexico to the United States

Nadia Yamel Flores, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

International migration theories that have to taken into account the existence of social networks have tended to view the concept of social capital in a very general and abstract way, paying little attention to the underlying social dynamics involved in its creation and exchange. As a result of my previous work related to the exchange of social support among migrants, I hypothesized the existence of systematic differences in solidarity behavior according to the size of communities of origin. I thus decided to investigate this hypothesis comparing the social dynamics of social capital formation and exchange among migrants from rural and urban settings. Using data from the Mexican Migration Project I undertake a discrete-time event history analysis to predict the likelihood of undertaking a first trip from Mexico to the U.S. given various measures of demographic background, economic status, human capital, and social capital. This analysis reveals that the relative importance of the various indicators does vary systematically between rural and urban settings in theoretically meaningful ways. Then I look more closely at the dynamics of social solidarity and exchange relations among migrants from rural and urban settings. Drawing upon qualitative and quantitative information I developed in the course of my fieldwork in four communities of different sizes in Guanajuato, Mexico, I offer evidence in support of my theoretical argument that urban-based migrant networks are weak and mostly effective for helping people get to the United States. Once in the country, however, these networks prove fragile and urban migrants therefore gravitate to already-established rural-based networks through a process I call the “clique effect.” Finally, I consider the role of network density and heterogeneity in determining access to different forms of migratory assistance, such as help migrating, settling, and finding employment. Results suggest that urban-origin migrants, like their rural counterparts, rely on cohesive, homogeneous, clique-like networks for achieving migratory success with respect to crossing, settling down, finding employment and getting a better occupational status. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, General|Sociology, Demography

Recommended Citation

Nadia Yamel Flores, "The interrelation between social context, social structure, and social capital in international migration flows from Mexico to the United States" (January 1, 2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3179730.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3179730

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