My Family, My Roots, My Future: Key Findings From a Study on Alternatives to Migration for Youth in Guatemala


Over the past several years, northward migration from Central America has sharply increased. As the number of migrants grows, the profile of migrants has also shifted, with an increase in the number of women, unaccompanied minors, and even entire families migrating in search of a more dignified life. Previous studies demonstrate that the global pandemic and punitive measures such as U.S. border patrol and detention centers have had little impact on migratory intention. Therefore, we can address migration in a more effective and humane way by better understanding and investing in the factors that help people remain and thrive in their communities.

Between 2021 and 2022, CRS commissioned a study in the Guatemalan Western Highlands to delve into some of the factors that promote rootedness—the opportunity and desire to live and thrive in one’s home community – among youth. The following findings should inform youth programming that seeks to provide alternatives to irregular migration:

  1. Strong family ties and family attachment can significantly impact the intention of youth to migrate. 

  2. Youth are most eager to participate in initiatives that they lead and that reflect their aspirations.

  3. Youth aspire to work beyond the agriculture production sector.

  4. Community participation, especially in leadership and decision-making spaces, fosters youth engagement.

  5. Economic opportunity is only part of the solution. Young people seek integrated programs that include elements such as psychosocial support and recreational and artistic activities.

  6. Development programs for youth should examine, challenge, and seek to transform inequitable gender structures.

  7. Robustly investing in communities of origin is the central factor to providing youth with an opportunity and desire to live and thrive in their home.

CRS aims to honor the reality of young people, and to better understand the factors that drive migration and promote permanence. With targeted research and evidence-based programming, CRS is working to ensure that effective investment prevents forced migration in Central America. 

Published April 2023