Paternal migration, maternal autonomy and child health in Mexico

Leticia Esther Fernandez, University of Pennsylvania


Earlier research suggest that mothers are more child-oriented than fathers. Therefore, in the absence of fathers, mothers may use their increased autonomy to redirect household resources to their children. Since mothers who head their own households may differ from those who do not, I control for maternal selectivity by studying the behavior of women in communities with high rates of male migration. This research addresses two issues: whether there are gains in maternal autonomy associated with male migration, and whether such gains result in better child health. Survey and ethnographic data collected in a small Mexican rural community with high rates of male out-migration are used to answer the first question. To address the second one, I study differences in duration of breast feeding, timing of vaccinations, and food allocations between children of migrant and non-migrant fathers. Simultaneous equations techniques and fixed-effects procedures are used at the community and household levels to test the hypothesis that in the absence of fathers, children receive more health-related resources. The data used to address the second question were collected in 5 neighboring communities, including the small village used to study gains in maternal autonomy. The results indicate that mothers do gain some autonomy in the use of household resources as a result of male migration, and that those gains are enduring. However, such autonomy does not result in enhanced allocation of health-related resources to children.

Subject Area

Demographics|Womens studies|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Welfare

Recommended Citation

Fernandez, Leticia Esther, "Paternal migration, maternal autonomy and child health in Mexico" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9814841.