Selective Return Migration and the Maternal and Infant Health of the Mexican-Origin Population in the United States: A Sibling Analysis

Ceballos, Miguel, and Alberto Palloni
Working paper no. 2010-17


A significant body of research on minority health shows that while Hispanic immigrants experience unexpectedly favorable outcomes in maternal and infant health, their advantage deteriorates with increased time of residence in the US. This is referred to as the “acculturation paradox.” We assess two hypotheses explaining the “acculturation paradox” for birth and child health outcomes. The first attributes deterioration to negative effects of acculturation and behavioral adjustments made by immigrants while living in the US, and the second accredits this deterioration to a process of selective return migration. We use a sample of Mexican immigrant women living in two Midwestern communities in the US to conduct a sibling analysis using the community sample to control for unmeasured factors shared in a household that may be responsible for selective return migration. The sibling analysis shows no significant differences between the birth outcomes of the two siblings providing indirect evidence supporting the selective return migration hypothesis.