E.g., 07/29/2014
E.g., 07/29/2014

Mexican Migration to the United States: Underlying Economic Factors and Possible Scenarios for Future Flows

April 2013

Mexican Migration to the United States: Underlying Economic Factors and Possible Scenarios for Future Flows

This report examines the evolution of migration flows from Mexico to the United States and highlights the key economic factors linked to migration levels that increased significantly during the 1990s, slowed after 2001, and have been declining since 2007. It assesses the role of supply-side factors — Mexico’s peso crisis, heightened post-9/11 U.S. immigration enforcement, and the global economic crisis — as well as economic conditions affecting the demand for Mexican labor, with particular focus on the importance of sectoral growth patterns across U.S. sectors of varying skill intensity. These findings are analyzed in order to forecast Mexican migration flows in the near-future.

Apart from obvious push factors, the report offers that observed migration trends also appear to align with the economic performance patterns of unskilled labor-intensive sectors that employ high shares of Mexican workers. Balanced economic growth across all sectors during the economic boom of the 1990s along with the expansion of the Mexican labor pool could have induced rapid migration in response to labor demands. From 2000 to 2007, higher growth rates of capital-intensive sectors may have led to a decrease in overall labor demand, which may partially explain the reduction of Mexican migration flows during these years. In recent years, the economic crisis appears to have had a disproportionate negative impact on unskilled labor-intensive sectors, particularly the construction and manufacturing sectors in which Mexican workers are most intensively concentrated, which could explain the recent decline in Mexican migration flows.

Based on these findings, authors use a model of demand for Mexican labor by employment sector to calculate a net flow of around 260,000 Mexican migrants to the United States per year between 2011 and 2017. Even when the baseline estimate is adjusted to reflect possible supply changes, authors conclude that migration flows are highly unlikely to reach peak levels registered during the 1990s.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Value-Added Capital and Labor Composition in the United States

III. Skill Intensity and Mexican Intensity

IV. Estimating Future Mexican Migration Flows:

A. Estimation of Possible Future Flows from Mexico to the United States Based on a Model of the Demand for Mexican Labor

B. Incorporating Possible Shocks into the Model to Estimate Possible Future Flows

V. Conclusions and Final Remarks