Violence, Development and Migration Waves: Evidence from Central American Child Migrant Apprehensions

56 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2017

See all articles by Michael A. Clemens

Michael A. Clemens

Center for Global Development; IZA-Institute for the Study of Labor

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper


A recent surge in child migration to the U.S. from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala has occurred in the context of high rates of regional violence. But little quantitative evidence exists on the causal relationship between violence and international emigration in this or any other region. This paper studies the relationship between violence in the Northern Triangle and child migration to the United States using novel, individual-level, anonymized data on all 178,825 U.S. apprehensions of unaccompanied child migrants from these countries between 2011 and 2016. It finds that one additional homicide per year in the region, sustained over the whole period – that is, a cumulative total of six additional homicides – caused a cumulative total of 3.7 additional unaccompanied child apprehensions in the United States. The explanatory power of short-term increases in violence is roughly equal to the explanatory power of long-term economic characteristics like average income and poverty. Due to diffusion of migration experience and assistance through social networks, violence can cause waves of migration that snowball over time, continuing to rise even when violence levels do not.

Keywords: violence, migration, forced, refugee, UAC, unaccompanied children, Northern Triangle, Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, minors, survival migration, youths, Cartagena Declaration, Global Compact, war, drug trade, smugglers, traffickers, trafficking, cocaine, cartel, gang, mara, homicide, murder, mobility, asylum, asylee, war, deaths

JEL Classification: D74, F22, K42, O15, R23

Suggested Citation

Clemens, Michael Andrew, Violence, Development and Migration Waves: Evidence from Central American Child Migrant Apprehensions. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10928. Available at SSRN:

Michael Andrew Clemens (Contact Author)

Center for Global Development ( email )

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

IZA-Institute for the Study of Labor ( email )


Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics