Marriage at a distance: Spouse separation and the migrant family

Payal Gupta, University of Pennsylvania


The temporary residential separation of spouses is common side effect of the migration process. Previous research has shown that spouse separation can be both a physical and mental stress for family members, yet overall, little academic attention has been paid to this issue. No prior study has quantitatively demonstrated the characteristics of the population that experiences migration-related spouse separation. In this dissertation, I use both quantitative and qualitative analyses to address several questions related to this topic. First, I use life table analyses to determine the probability of experiencing spouse separation. Then I use regression analyses to illustrate the differences among couples that migrate together, couples that separate for migration, and non-migrants. Another problem addressed in this dissertation is the direction of causality between migration and fertility. In separate analyses, I use “spouse separation” as both an independent and dependent variable. In this way, I test the effect of having children on migration as well as the effect of migration on having children. Finally, I present some data from qualitative interviews that I conducted with both migrant and non-migrant Mexicans on the topic of marriage, migration, and family. The results of this dissertation study show that the probability of experiencing residential separation is highest during the early years of marriage when intense family formation activity also takes place. Participation in migration may shift the timing of births, but does not significantly contribute to changes in the overall fertility rate of migrants when compared to non-migrants. The presence of young children in the household is associated with higher levels of migration activity and spouse separation. Qualitative evidence shows support for the idea that international migration is an ordinary way of life. Migrant families cope with their bi-national living arrangement and accept it as a normal part of their married lives.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Demographics|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Gupta, Payal, "Marriage at a distance: Spouse separation and the migrant family" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3043880.