Pathways to Mobility: Engaging Mexican American Youth Through Participatory Photo Mapping

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Journal of Adolescent Research

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Mexican Americans confront numerous challenges pursuing social mobility, including low rates of college graduation and high rates of poverty. Understanding these challenges is critical for developing effective strategies to promote opportunity and enhance the health and well-being of Mexican American youth. To gain an enhanced understanding of where mobility is “placed” and how mobility paths are navigated, we engaged 25 second-generation Mexican American youth in a participatory photo mapping study that collected and analyzed qualitative, visual, and spatial data. Key themes emerged regarding mobility barriers and facilitators experienced by youth. We found that youth experience mobility on a neighborhood level while fundamental aspects of mobility are shaped and sustained at a regional level. Youth actively and strategically leverage social and community networks to access mobility opportunities. These findings extend our knowledge by (a) pointing to an emerging reactive mobility as youth identify and avoid missteps, (b) illustrating the regional aspect of opportunity, and (c) highlighting how external indicators of opportunity may not accurately represent the presence and accessibility of mobility ladders for Mexican American youth. These findings underscore the need for upstream solutions focused on creating place-based access to opportunity as well as building regional mobility ladders.


© The Author(s) 2017



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