Urban migration of adolescent girls: Quantitative results from developing countries

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This chapter assembles a quantitative portrait of the adolescent girls who migrate to the cities and towns of poor countries, drawing mainly on a large collection of data from demographic surveys and census micro-samples. For adolescent girls and young women, migration puts important urban resources within reach, in the form of access to higher levels of schooling, more varied labor markets and employment opportunities, and multiple levels of health-care institutions. But while the move is underway and until she locates a safe home in her new location, an adolescent girl can confront a range of social and sexual risks that can threaten her well-being and thwart hopes for advancement. Much of the literature on adolescent migration is focused on these risks but neglects the potential benefits. We find that in many countries, significant percentages of urban adolescent girls are recent in-migrants. In characterizing their life-circumstances, we give special attention to indicators of social isolation, the conditions of housing and neighborhood, and school enrollment. We show that adolescent girl migrants are a highly diverse group, advantaged in some respects and disadvantaged in others. Field studies in urban India shed light on the difficulties with which girls must cope as they strive to adapt to urban life.