The impact of Mexico-U.S. migration on Mexican adolescents is an important public policy issue for both countries. For Mexico, remitted earnings have the potential to improve the economic mobility prospects of the children of migrants. Although some studies have shown such household-level effects (Taylor, 1987), most research on the impact of international migration on economic development in migrant-sending countries emphasizes that the vast sums of "migradollars" generate little sustained employment or capital investment (Papademetriou and Martin, 1991). In the U.S., labor economists such as Borjas (1990) decry the declining "quality" of recent immigrants. They contend that our immigration policies must reflect the needs of a rapidly evolving economy that demands highly skilled labor, not the vast numbers of less-educated migrants that have "clamored at the gates" in recent decades.
We address an issue directly related to both debates by examining how U.S. migration affects Mexican children's orientations toward working or studying in the U.S. and how these orientations affect aspirations to attend university. If family migration experience increases children's orientation toward the U.S., how does such an orientation then affect their educational aspirations? Migrant remittances can significantly improve education levels of the next generation by easing household financial constraints. Yet, prolonged absences of migrant parents and economic windfalls from migration may generate behavioral outcomes and shifts in labor market orientation that lower educational attainment.
We first explore how migration by children themselves, their immediate and extended family members, and their acquaintances, affect aspirations to work and to study in the U.S., controlling for community-, household-, and individual-level characteristics. We hypothesize that while family migration experience may increase children's aspirations to work and study in the U.S., these two orientations, in turn, have distinct consequences for children's aspirations for higher education. Children aspiring to work in the U.S. may be less concerned about their education because most Mexican migrants work in low-wage, low-skill occupations in the U.S. and are prevented from advancing to better jobs because of lack of English language skills, legal documents, and work credentials (Chiswick, 1979; Massey et al., 1987). Yet, children in migrant households may benefit from remitted earnings that permit additional education and raise educational aspirations. Hence, migration experience of adult household members may also po sitively affect aspirations for higher education.
Our study is unique in several respects. First, little research considers how adult migration affects children who remain in countries of origin. This question is important for understanding Mexican-U.S. immigration, most of which is temporary and not permanent (Binational Study on Migration, 1998). Moreover, our study has important implications for long-term effects of migration on migrants' children, who are potential future migrants. Previous research suggests that temporary U.S. labor migration becomes a way of life as community residents grow accustomed to the increased status and consumption it affords (Reichert, 1981). Yet, few studies have explored how orientations shift from the Mexican labor market and toward the U.S. labor market, particularly among youth who have not yet begun their occupational careers. Our research offers a specific mechanism through which the prevalence of migration within children's families influences their educational outcomes. Our study is also unique for its use of origina l data collected by the primary author in a migrant-sending state in Mexico.
The impact of temporary labor migration on children who remain in migrant-sending countries receives little attention, despite the prevalence of such migration worldwide. What few qualitative studies exist focus on small groups of children from individual communities (Goza, Rios-Neto, and Vieira, 1993; Zoller-Booth, 1996). Another unexplored topic is the impact on children of their own temporary migration, alone or with their families, prior to completing schooling. Such experience may significantly affect how Mexican children view life in the U.S., their future migration prospects, and education in Mexico (Kandel, 1998). Although this facet of Mexico-U.S. migration has not been examined in previous research, we propose two types of child migration experiences: tourism and extended stays. We expect that a child's own migration experience will have different effects on future educational and occupational orientations, depending upon its context. A child's U.S. visit as a tourist implies a relatively high SES f amily. However, being born, working, or studying in the U.S. is likely to have occurred during family labor migration. This exposes children to more of the institutional facets of the U.S., such as schools and the labor market.
Mexico-U.S. migration typically involves economically motivated household heads and young adults (Massey et al., 1987; Kandel, 1998). Despite relatively low U.S. wages, the financial rewards from migrating are substantial compared to those from working in Mexico. Aggregated, the flow of migrants' remittances to Mexico has enormous potential for economic development at the household and community levels, with estimated flows of $2-$5 billion, rivaling Mexico's earnings from tourism and export agriculture (Durand et al., 1996; IMF, 1998).
Rural and lower SES Mexican parents, for whom international migration is a viable strategy for economic mobility, overwhelmingly believe that migration improves the economic well-being of their families (Jones, 1995; Kandel, 1998). Although nine years of public education in Mexico are tuition free, related expenses such as uniforms, books, supplies, and parent-association fees begin at kindergarten. By the sixth grade, costs to families of keeping children in school become significant, particularly in rural communities. Additional income from migration relaxes the financial obstacles to continued schooling, as is often cited by Mexican parents.
Migration also affects children's career outcomes by means of migrant networks. Previous theories suggest that social networks, maintained by past and potential future migrants, play an important role in sustaining migration despite declining wage differentials or more restrictive immigration policies. Cemented by social ties and personal obligations, migrant networks lower the costs of migration through the provision of useful, current information, financial resources for border crossing and temporary settlement, and social contacts in the U.S. who can assist recent arrivals obtain employment. Social networks can also disseminate the notion that migration is desirable; in a community where most individuals have migrated, the aspiration to migrate may become normative.
Migration also introduces other negative impacts on educational attainment. Although children whose parents or older siblings have previously migrated may be more apt to migrate, parental and/or sibling absence resulting from trips to the U.S. can hinder Mexican children's educational outcomes because of less parental supervision and greater psychological strain (Landale and Nimfa, 1995). Furthermore, the U.S. labor market does not reward educational investment acquired in Mexico to anywhere near the degree that the Mexican labor market does. Since U.S. wages for migrants are based more on migration experience, contacts, English-language skills, and legal documents, potential migrants have little incentive to invest in their …