Rising internal and international migration has affected a growing number of children in developing countries. Most of these children are left behind as one or both parents leave to seek work elsewhere. Migration represents a distinct form of parental absence, and is likely to affect these children in complex ways, generating sizeable social costs as a result of parental absence, but bringing economic benefits through remittances. However, the growing body of literature has not examined these multiple influences of migration and their mediating mechanisms within a single framework. The proposed project will examine the effects of parental out-migration on child well-being in two developing settings. Using high-quality longitudinal datasets from Mexico and Indonesia with excellent comparability and rich micro- and macro-level information (the Mexican Family Life Survey and the Indonesia Family Life Survey), and building on a conceptual framework developed in the PI's previous work, this project seeks to: (1) examine both the beneficial and detrimental impacts of migration on key aspects of well-being (educational status, cognitive development, and health) of children left behind in Mexico and Indonesia;(2) explore how various socioeconomic, psychosocial, and behavioral factors mediate the effects of migration on child well-being;(3) assess the generalizability of results across two streams of migration (within-country and cross-country out- migration);and (4) examine the generalizability of results across the two research settings. Longitudinal data analysis methods (fixed- and random-effect modeling) will be used to strengthen causal claims. This research will be the first comprehensive study of children left behind by migrants in developing settings. It outlines and tests a complex conceptual framework, examining both beneficial and disruptive effects of out- migration on a wide array of child outcomes. Findings will contribute to the debate on whether and how migration shapes child well-being in developing societies. Results from the comparative analysis will lead to a more adequate framework that can better and more broadly interpret the consequences of out-migration for children. Both the conceptual framework and the analytic approach developed and refined in this research can be adapted in other settings and help inform future work.

Public Health Relevance

This research will provide comprehensive and robust information on the effects of out-migration on children's health, education, and cognitive development. Such information can inform the design of intervention programs by local governments and global development organizations such as USAID and UNICEF, to reinforce the benefits while mitigating the costs of out-migration for children's health and well-being. 1

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Clark, Rebecca L
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Columbia University (N.Y.)
Social Sciences
Other Domestic Higher Education
New York
United States
Zip Code