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The mixed effects of migration: Community-level migration and birthweight in Mexico


Research on the relationship between migration and infant health in Mexico finds that migration has mixed impacts on the risk of low birthweight (LBW). Whereas the departure and absence of household and community members are harmful, remittances are beneficial. We extend this work by considering a different measure of infant health in addition to LBW: macrosomia (i.e., heavy birthweight), which is associated with infant, child, and maternal morbidities but has a different social risk profile from LBW. We link the 2008 and 2009 Mexican birth certificates with community data from the 2000 Mexican census to analyze the association between various dimensions of community-level migration (i.e., rates of out-migration, receipt of remittances, and return migration) and the risk of LBW and macrosomia. We examine this association using two sets of models which differ in the extent to which they account for endogeneity. We find that the health impacts of migration differ depending not only on the dimension of migration, but also on the measure of health, and that they are robust to potential sources of endogeneity. Whereas community remittances and return migration are associated with lower risk of LBW, they are associated with increased risk of macrosomia. By contrast, out-migration is associated with increased risk of LBW and lower risk of macrosomia. Our analysis of endogeneity suggests that bias resulting from unmeasured differences between communities with different levels of migration may result in an underestimate of the impacts of community migration on birthweight.

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