Looking for a practical exercise about migration and remittance flows to challenge your students?

Remittances (the funds sent by migrant workers back to their families) are a major international financial flow into Mexico. Remittances bring more than 20 billion dollars a year into the economy, an amount equivalent to 2.5% of Mexico’s GDP. On a per person basis, Mexico receives more worker remittances than any other major country in the world. An estimated 20% of Mexican residents regularly receive some financial support from relatives working abroad. Such remittances are the mainstay of the economies of many Mexican families, especially in rural areas of Durango, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Michoacán.

Two data tables [see link]  included in the World Bank Working Paper by Raúl Hernández-Coss, referred to in several previous posts, offer an ideal starting-point for practical mapping and analysis exercises for students. (The data is from 2004 but we are more interested in general patterns than precise values). The data tables are here:

A ready-made printable base map, showing the state boundaries of Mexico and USA, can be found here:

Suggested mapping exercises:

1. Which US areas have most Mexican migrants?

Use Column 2 (Mexican nationals living in this jurisdiction) of Table VI.A.1 and draw proportional circles on a base map to show which areas have most migrants. [To draw circles where the area of each circle is in direct proportion to the number of Mexican nationals, the first step is to calculate the square root of each number. These square roots are then used as the basis for working out the diameter (or radius) of the circle you draw for each location. The area of each circle is then proportional to the number of migrants. Remember to choose the most appropriate scale for the circles, so that it is easy to compare places. (If you draw very small circles, or super-large circles, they will be difficult to compare!)

2. Which US areas send the highest value of remittances back to Mexico?

Use column 4 of Table VI.A.1 to show the value of total “annual remittance flows” on a base map. You may be able to superimpose this information on the same base map you drew for Q1 which would make it very easy to see if the areas with most Mexican nationals send the most remittances back to Mexico each year. Can you see any anomalies on your map, either where an area sends far more remittances back than might be expected from the number of migrants, or where an area sends only a small value of remittances back despite having a very large number of Mexican nationals?

3. How does the “average remittance” (column 5 of Table VI.A.1 vary?

Use the available figures to see if you can identify any pattern to which areas send relatively large remittance payments, and which send much smaller average payments.

4. Where do all the remittance payments go?

Level One: Use the information from Table VI.A.2 to draw a map with arrows showing the largest single flows from each area in the USA to their corresponding state in Mexico.

Level Two: Work out the dollar value of the main remittance flows, by using the % figures given for some areas in Table VI.A.2 and their corresponding total annual remittance values from Table VI.A.1. (eg the value of the Los Angeles to Jalisco flow is 26% of \$7,886.3 million). Then map the ten largest flows using flowlines (arrows where the width of each arrow is proportional to the value of remittances).

Look at the map or maps created and see if you can identify any patterns. If you can describe a pattern, then also look to see if you can find any anomalies, and try to explain your findings.

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