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A life-course perspective on U.S. migration experience and later-life diabetes, hypertension, and depression for middle-aged and older Mexican adults

  • Author(s): Torres, Jacqueline Marie
  • Advisor(s): Wallace, Steven P.
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation explores the relationship between personal and spousal migration to the United States and later-life health for older Mexican adults living in Mexico in the context of other social determinants of health across the life-course determinants. I use the 2001 baseline wave of the Mexican Health and Aging Survey, a nationally representative sample of Mexican adults 50 years and older (born before 1951). I test the relationship between U.S. migration experience and later-life depression, diabetes, and hypertension for older Mexican men, and between spousal migration to the U.S. and later-life depression, diabetes, and hypertension for older Mexican women. I also examine the degree to which personal or spousal migration to the U.S. might mediate or moderate the relationship between early-life socio-economic status and health conditions, and later-life health outcomes. My results suggest that there is no significant main effect of U.S. migration experience on later-life health for older Mexican men, although return U.S. migrant men who report lower socio-economic standing later in life appear to have elevated risk of depression and diabetes. On the other hand, older Mexican women whose spouses migrated to the U.S. have significantly increased odds of later-life diabetes and hypertension if those women are no longer in a union by the time of the survey. The adverse effects of spousal migration to the U.S. are exacerbated by women's domestic labor outside the home and lack of decision-making power relative to their spouses, but buffered by their own migration experience. Finally, although greater socio-economic disadvantage in childhood predicts both U.S. migration (personal and spousal), and increased odds of later-life depression, diabetes, and hypertension, there is no evidence that US migration experience explains this life-course trajectory of socio-economic status and health. There is also limited evidence that a U.S. migration experience alters the relationship between childhood conditions and later-life health. Overall, for this group of older Mexican adults, the adverse effects of past U.S. migration experience are only observed for women whose spouses migrated to the U.S. and who are no longer in a union, which contributes to theories of the gendered geographies of power, or the ways in which migration may have different effects for men and women - in this case women who primarily stayed behind in Mexico. On the other hand, contrary to theories of migration stress, having a U.S. migration history does not appear to have a substantial effect on the health of return Mexican migrant men.

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