CHILDREN OF MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS’ COGNITIVE AND NONCOGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT IN TRADITIONAL AND NON-TRADITIONAL U.S. DESTINATIONS
Nathenson, Robert Aaron
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Over the last twenty-five years Mexican communities have spread throughout the United States beyond the traditional southwest (‘traditional destinations’) to ‘non-traditional’ destinations west and east of the Mississippi. Little is understood about the consequences of this movement for Mexican immigrant children. This dissertation brings the migration, education, and child development literatures together by (1) conceptualizing living in each destination type as exposure to distinct environmental contexts that are consequential for child development and (2) comparing the cognitive and noncognitive development outcomes of these children between the two destination types. A difference-in-difference approach is used to isolate the influence of living in a non-traditional destination on the Mexican-white development gap. The overall environmental context is further disaggregated into family, school, neighborhood, and state policy components. Data from the 1990 and 2000 censes are employed to construct the destination types and the Educational Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class (1998-2007) is used to examine the impact of destination types on child development. Mixed effects modeling of ten multiply imputed datasets and propensity-score matching are employed. The results indicate that living in a non-traditional destination benefits the noncognitive development of Mexican immigrant children, who exhibit greater self-control, fewer externalizing problem behaviors, and stronger interpersonal skills. Because these behaviors involve engaging with peers, the findings suggest a positive influence of living in non-traditional destinations on the interactive behaviors of Mexican immigrant children. One mechanism that helps explain this influence is school segregation. Mexican immigrant children attend predominantly Hispanic schools in traditional destinations but they attend schools that are more racial/ethnically and socio-economically diverse in non-traditional destinations. Attending a school that is predominantly Hispanic is negatively associated with cognitive and noncognitive development. Another mechanism stems from differences in the neighborhood setting of Mexican immigrants between the destination types, with lower poverty rates and higher college education attainment in non-traditional destinations.