Age and gender of Salvadoran child migrants

While 323 interviews have been transcribed, translated and coded, I did not record whether the participant was male or female in one interview. This post is thus based on 322 interviews.

106 (33%) children were female, and 216 (67%) were male. This breakdown is slightly more equal than for those of unaccompanied child migrants who are detained by CBP or ICE in the United States. In the US, about 25% of child migrants are female and 75% are male. A few reasons for the difference between origin and destination are possible.

First, more girls may cross into the US without detection. From my interactions with 300 unaccompanied child migrants in the US, it was more common for the girls to take busses and cars on their journey, whereas many of the teenage boys rode the train. The latter form of migration indicates a lack of resources and would make crossing undetected nearly impossible. A later post will report with whom children were traveling, although not all admit to traveling with a coyote or guia if they were traveling with one.

Second, more girls may decide not to make the journey after being deported from Mexico. No one knows what percentage of deportees from Mexico or the US attempt the journey again, but numerous studies have verified that many migrants attempted the crossing three or more times before successfully reaching the US. Females are vulnerable to greater abuse along the journey and may be dissuaded from trying again if one of their attempts involved either being rape or seeing rape.

Third, even if they are not dissuaded, their family members may be more dissuaded from letting them attempt the journey again if it is unsuccessful the first time. Broadly, girls often have less autonomy than males in sending countries, so adult caretakers could exert more influence on their decisions than on male’s.

Fourth, the repercussions girls face after deportation may not be equivalent to those boys encounter. Here, the causes of emigration will be particularly important, and I will start making these posts soon.

Interestingly, a larger percentage — and equal number — of girls than boys traveled under the age of 12.  Thirty girls (28%) were between the ages of one and 12. While thirty boys were within the same age range, they only constituted 14% of the male child migrants. Whereas at least one girl at every age from one to 12 migrated, no boys migrated at age six or 10 among boys.

Similarly, a larger percentage — and equal number — of girls aged 13 and 14 migrated than boys aged 13 and 14. Eleven (10.4%) girls migrated at age 13, and 13 (12.3%) migrated at age 14, compared to 10 boys (4.6%) at age 13 and 15 (6.9%) at age 14.

However, a larger percentage of — and two or more times as many — boys aged 15, 16, and 17 migrated than girls at the same ages. At age 15, 25 males (11.6%) and 10 females (9.4%) migrated. At age 16, 56 males (25.9%) and 15 females (14.1%) migrated. At age 17, 72 males (33.3%) and 26 females (24.5%) migrated.

Through 2013, in the US, about 80 percent of unaccompanied child migrants in Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters were between the ages of 14 and 17. Seventy-two percent of my participants fall into that range, and 78.5 percent are between 13 and 17. I did not expect that an equal number of girls and boys were migrating between the ages of one and 14. The post on their traveling partners and causes of emigration will provide insight.


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