Transnationalism and Housing and Health Risks of Rural Latino Immigrant Families
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In-depth interviews with rural low-income Mexican immigrant mothers explored "How, if at all, do the housing and health issues of rural Latino immigrant families vary based on level of transnationalism?" Transnationalism in this study refers to family relationships that transcend national boundaries and was based on language spoken at home, nature and frequency of contact with family and friends in the country of origin, and the extent and frequency of travel to the country of origin. We examined the notion that support networks among families can be portrayed as existing along a continuum. At one end of the continuum, families have frequent contact with relatives in their country of origin and experience a high degree of solidarity and interdependence with them; they are high in transnational activity. At the other end of the continuum, families who are not in regular contact with relatives in their country of origin and do not feel a strong sense of mutual obligation with them are characterized as low in transnational activity. Study participants were mothers age 18 or older, had at least one child age 12 or younger, and resided in a household with an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. Data were drawn from interviews with 78 Latino mothers in three project states (California n=33, Iowa n=28 and Oregon n=17). Families responded to questions in a semi-structured interview protocol, as well as survey questions: Adult and Child Health Survey (Richards, Pamulapati, Corson, & Merrill, 2000), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) (Radloff, 1977), and the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module (Nord & Andrews, 1999). Responses were examined to understand the nature and extent of transnational experiences among families and how, if at all, housing and health risks differed by families' degree of transnationalism. Qualitative data were coded and entered into MAXqda2 (2005) and quantitative data were coded and entered into SPSS vs. 15.0. Transcripts were read multiple times to develop sub-codes related to health and housing risks and transnationalism. Researchers reviewed the data several times using the process of constant comparative analysis to identify emerging themes to inform the development of the transnational continuum and the health and housing risk scales. Findings revealed that most of the families in the study were categorized as low (45 of 78 cases) than high (23 of 78 cases) in transnational activities with 10 families classified "modestly" transnational. Low and high transnational families differed across characteristics and health concerns; however, both struggled to meet their housing and health needs. Both high and low transnational families strived for home ownership; families low in transnational activity were more likely to be homeowners. Housing risks were present among high and low transnational families; both groups indicated housing quality and affordability problems and little knowledge of programs that could improve their housing conditions. Health risk indicators were present in more than half of the families. There were significant associations with four items in the depression scale and transnationalism, and qualitative findings reveal loneliness and depression in families.