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Social Mobility over the Life Course of Migration: Transition, Pattern, and Self-selection

  • Author(s): Chen, Zhenxiang
  • Advisor(s): Zhou, Min
  • et al.
Abstract

Studies on migrant mobility over the life course have not considered migration stages over lifetime migration. In this dissertation, I examine migrant social mobility over the life course of migration, situating mobility within frameworks of life-course transitions, patterns, and self-selection. By applying this theoretical framework, I identify meaningful migration stages by the dimension of interest. These migration stages form migration transitions and patterns that largely shape migrant social mobility. Additionally, I explore and consider migrant self-selection from a life-course angle. Building on this framework, I theorize and test two pathways to explain migrant social mobility over lifetime migration: (i) self-selecting into migration transitions and patterns; and (ii) realizing different social mobility outcomes within each transition or pattern. By doing so, I decompose social mobility over lifetime migration into differences between migration transitions or patterns and differences within each migration transition or pattern. I apply various selection models to explore transition- and pattern-specific pathways while accounting for potential selection bias. I apply this framework to three dimensions – the temporal dimension, documentation status dimension, and migration status dimension – and rely on Mexico-US international migration and China rural-to-urban migration. The overall results show that migrant social mobility over lifetime migration is explained by the self-selection process into migration transitions and patterns and social mobility process within each transition or pattern. These two processes are identified for all three dimensions of migration and for both Mexico-US international migration and China rural-to-urban migration. I first find that different migration transitions and patterns are associated with different social mobility outcomes, measured by occupational attainment, wages, and economic integration. Then I verify that migrants self-select into these migration transitions and patterns. Individual characteristics and external factors drive this process. Furthermore, migrants within each transition or pattern still realize divergent social mobility outcomes given their individual characteristics and external factors to which they are exposed. The factors that explain social mobility outcomes within each transition or pattern often have a strong effect. Moreover, their effects are transition- and pattern-specific, suggesting that migration transitions and patterns shape social mobility pathways.

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