Leaving Parents Behind: Migration and Elderly Living Arrangements in Mexico

Kanaiaupuni, Shawn Malia
Working paper no. 1999-16


Unlike industrialized countries, where parents expect to spend some portion of mid- to later-life without children at home, traditional patterns of living arrangements in Mexico reflect high levels of family caregiving for the elderly and a high degree of continuity of parent-child coresidence over the lifecourse. Living alone is uncommon due both to structural constraints, fed by economic instability and limited services or institutional coverage for the poor and the elderly, and to social norms that emphasize the importance of the family. But, because U.S. migration is an age-specific phenomenon of growing prevalence in many parts of Mexico, I argue that it may disrupt such traditional arrangements and increase the likelihood that the elderly live alone. This analysis discusses the complicated processes through which U.S. migration might influence elderly living arrangements, and the exploratory results provide evidence suggesting that the migration of adult children, especially married children, may raise the chances of living alone by nearly twofold in 52 origin villages.