Health and Proportionality: A Study of Undocumented Migrants from the Texas-Mexico Border




Ayala Bas, Alejandra Desiré

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Many undocumented migrants cross the Texas-Mexico border in search for a better, safer place every year. Although we cannot determine with certainty what motivates the migrants to risk their lives crossing the border, we can use skeletal methods to establish their nutritional and health status. Numerous studies have demonstrated that populations living in favorable socioeconomic environments in the early years of life show fewer stress markers in the adult skeleton. Thus, this study evaluated the health and socioeconomic status (SES) of 34 migrant remains found along the Texas-Mexico border by using relative leg length (LL*100/ST), crural index (TL*100/FPL) and the presence or absence of pathological conditions such as enamel hypoplasia, pathological ectocranial porosis and untreated caries lesions. This study has implications for understanding childhood and adult health histories, and why these migrants risked their lives crossing the border. Skeletal remains of these 34 undocumented migrants and 99 documented American Whites from low, middle and upper social class were measured using the revised Fully technique by Raxter and colleagues (2006). Descriptive statistics show mean differences in relative leg length by sex; American White males having the highest RLL (53.84cm) and female Latin American migrants having the least (52.53cm). Still, the ANOVA and Tukey post-hoc test results revealed that the significant differences lie between the male Latin American migrants and middle class American White males alone. For crural index, the male and female Latin American migrants have the highest means for crural index within each sex group (84.9mm and 83.2mm, respectively). ANOVA and Tukey post-hoc test results show no significant differences in crural indices across groups. Chi-square results for the three pathological conditions show that stress decreases with higher SES regardless of sex, in general. Several explanations are proposed including the Buffering Hypotheses, the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) Hypothesis and the Parental Investment Theory. Finally, I recommend a follow-up study where the migrants are compared with non-migrant populations from different countries in Latin America. Such analysis may facilitate positive identification of the migrant remains in the future.



Health, Proportionality, Undocumented migrants, Texas-Mexico border, Forensic anthropology, Anthropology, Relative leg length, Crural index, Enamel hypoplasia, Ectocranial porosis, Untreated caries lesions, Developmental stress, Female buffering hypothesis, Developmental origins of health and disease


Ayala Bas, A. D. (2016). <i>Health and proportionality: A study of undocumented migrants from the Texas-Mexico border</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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