Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Joseph St. Marie

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Dr. Iliyan Iliev

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Dr. Robert Pauly

Committee Member 3 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 4

Dr. Edward Sayre

Committee Member 4 School

Social Science and Global Studies


This research investigates the effect of well-being indictors and social globalization on the migration of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from Central America. The purpose of this study is to determine whether the surge in UAC that began in 2014 at the United States southern border is driven primarily by violence, or whether other factors are at play. Using data for the period 2008-2018, the apprehension of UAC serves as a proxy for measuring unaccompanied child migration to the United States. The four countries of focus are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico as they contribute the largest numbers of child migrants by country of origin. Well-being indicators will extend beyond the traditional definitions of economic prosperity, to include measures on the overall well-being of youth, as supported by the literature. Unemployment rates of young adults and expected years of schooling are included as a measure of youth engagement in productive activities, while homicide rates measure the threat to leading a productive, healthy life. Global social network links are considered as possible pull factors of migration and measured through a social globalization index. First, a parametric fixed effects regression model is used to show the relationship between the various push-pull factors and UAC migration. The engagement of youth in school or work, along with increased social globalization, prove to be significant in explaining heightened UAC migration. Second, the nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitney U tests reveal that the populations of the four source countries are not statistically similar and should not be treated as one. Finally, change point detection ties changes in UAC migratory patterns to the historical events of the time period.