International financial flows: how do Mexican migrants send remittances back home?

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Nov 302011
 

Remittance payments are one of the world’s major international financial flows. Mexican migrants in the USA send more than 20 billion dollars a year in total back to their families and friends. But how exactly are remittance payments made?

A 2005 World Bank study led by Raúl Hernández-Coss entitled “The U.S.–Mexico Remittance Corridor: Lessons on Shifting from Informal to Formal Transfer Systems” answers these questions, with a detailed analysis of the mechanisms and constraints of remittance transfers between USA and Mexico.

The mechanisms used to send money home can be broadly divided into two categories: formal and informal. Formal transfers use the regulated financial systems of the two countries concerned, in this case of USA and Mexico. Formal transfers include those made via banks, credit unions, wire transfer services and postal services. For formal transfers, migrants choose between direct “electronic” transfers from one bank to another, or sending a bank check by post or with a friend, or providing the recipient access to a bank account via an ATM card.

Informal transfers are all the other ways in which funds are repatriated: via ethnic stores, travel agencies, unregistered  money changers, courier services, hawala-type systems (informal value transfer systems) and hand-delivery.

Funds sent via formal channels are better monitored and more secure than funds sent via informal channels. Does this mean that personal remittances might be a good way to repatriate drug profits? The researchers involved in the World Bank study do not believe so:

“Personal remittances, such as migrant worker remittances, have not been widely associated with money laundering schemes, with the exception of “smurfing” (dividing transfers into smaller packages to evade reporting requirements on larger amounts). Larger transfers, such as those related to trade, generally have higher utility for money laundering schemes than do personal transfers of small amounts.”

Trends in methods used for remittance transfers. Credit: World Bank, 2005

Trends in methods used for remittance transfers. Credit: World Bank, 2005

The statistics for the value of remittances are based largely on formal transfers. One clear trend, reflected in data from Mexico’s central bank (Banxico), is that migrants are increasingly choosing to send funds using direct electronic transfers (see graph), rather than by personal checks or money orders.

In a future post, we will try to answer the question, “What factors affect migrants’ decisions about the best way to send their money back to Mexico?”

Related posts:

Mexican migrants and remittances: an introduction

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Nov 072011
 

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.

The map below accompanied a 2007 Atlantic Magazine report by Matthew Quirk entitled “The Mexican Connection: mass migration has left many towns in Mexico half-empty, but much wealthier.” The map is based in part on work by Raúl Hernández-Coss for the World Bank. The map and article provide an excellent starting-point for considering the basic patterns and impacts associated with remittance flows between the USA and Mexico. The article is an easy-to-read introduction to many of the key issues connected to remittances.

The data used for the map come from the US Census and from the registration records held by Mexican consulates in the USA.

Summary of migration flows between Mexico and USA

Summary of migration flows between Mexico and USA; click to enlarge Source: Atlantic Magazine.

The causes and consequences of mass out-migration and large remittance payments are varied, and sometimes disputed. For background, causes and trends, try:

For some impacts of Mexican migrants on the USA (of varying importance), see:

The four subtitles used in the Atlantic Magazine article are useful reminders of some of the other major aspects of international migration from Mexico. Again, links are given to previous Geo-Mexico posts which look at good examples.

“Branching Out” emphasizes the links that exist between communities, often referred to as “migration channels”.

“The Hollow States” identifies the five major “states of origin”—Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas—which receive almost 50% of all remittance payments.

“Staying Put” points out that improved economic conditions in Mexico in recent decades, have restricted out-migration from certain areas, especially the border region. Recent developments in Mexico’s war on drugs have, however, led to an increase in the number of border residents moving to bigger, safer cities further south, or seeking to emigrate to the USA.

“Community Development” stresses the important link between “hometown associations” (groupings, found in many US cities, of Mexican migrants sharing a common area of origin) and their related villages and towns in Mexico. Many community development projects in areas of high out-migration have been financed by remittances. In many cases, the three levels of Mexican government—municipal, state and federal—provide matching funds for such projects, meaning that remittances only pay for 25% of the total costs.

In future posts, we will examine some of these aspects of remittances in more detail, and take a much closer look at the precise mechanisms used to make the international financial transfers involved.

Uxpanapa, an example of forced migration

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Oct 312011
 

Almost all internal migration in Mexico in recent history has been voluntary. Tens of thousands of rural Mexicans have decided that life might be better somewhere else and have left their farms for the bright lights of the nearest large city. Their motivation is usually economic, but sometimes may be based on educational opportunities or access to health care.

However, not all internal migration has been voluntary. There have been some cases of forced migration, where the inhabitants of a village or area have been made to move away in order to make way for large-scale infrastructure projects such as reservoirs, tourism resorts and hotel complexes.

Since most good dam sites are in remote highland areas, with sparse population, forced migrations due to new dams are relatively rare in Mexico. One good example is when the building of the Cerro de Oro dam in the 1970s in northern Oaxaca, on a tributary of the River Papaloapan, flooded 360 square kilometers (140 square miles) and meant the forced relocation of more than 5000 Chinantec Indians. [Aguilera Reyes] The resettlement plan was one of the most forward-looking of its time. Villagers received compensation for their existing homes, trees and crops, and were offered a choice of possible resettlement sites.

They chose an area of rainforest-covered ridges and valleys near the headwaters of the Rivers Coatzacoalcos and Uxpanapa in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. With government assistance they built a dozen new villages named, somewhat unimaginatively, Poblado Uno, Poblado Dos, etc. Extensive agricultural support was provided for several seasons, but the plan failed to live up to expectations, in part because its architect, the distinguished Mexican geographer Jorge Tamayo, was killed in a plane crash in 1978.

Many of the area’s young people have migrated (voluntarily) north. The remaining villagers grow ixtle, a fibrous cash crop produced from rainforest bromeliads that can be used for ropes and belts. They are also trying to introduce ecotourism to preserve what is left of their tropical jungle hideout, which has a rich biodiversity, including spider monkeys and jaguars. [Ginsberg]

References:

Aguilera Reyes, S. 2004 “Desarrollo, Población y Uso de los Recursos Naturales en el Valle de Uxpanapa.” Universidad Veracruzana Facultad de Sociología thesis. Xalapa,Veracruz. Marzo 2004.

Ginsberg, S. 2000 Report from Uxpanapa. Can bromeliads save Veracruz’s last rainforest? [6 September 2009]

Related posts:

This post is an edited excerpt from chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy today!

Mexico City: attracting businesses from northern Mexico and revitalizing downtown core

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Sep 262011
 

Some businesses leaving northern Mexico and moving to Mexico City

According to Laura Velázquez, the Economic Development Secretary for the Federal District, the city has attracted 1650 firms from the north of Mexico in the first six months of 2011. The Federal District does offer some financial incentives for newly established companies, but the main reason is believed to be that the firms see Mexico City as having a higher level of public safety than some of the cities in states such as Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Sinaloa in northern Mexico,

A diverse range of businesses is involved; most are relocating in the northern and eastern sectors of Mexico City. The migration has boosted the number of available jobs in Mexico City and also led to an increase in foreign investment.

The continued face-lift of Mexico City’s historic downtown core

We introduced the on-going renovation project to beautify Mexico City’s Historic Center in The revitalization of Mexico City’s historic downtown core. The Trust Fund set up to rejuvenate Mexico City’s Historic Center repaired and cleaned more than 1000 facades between 2007 and 2010, with a total street frontage of 11.24 km. The work is part of the renovation of Mexico City’s Historic Center which now looks better than ever! Work continues on many other buildings that still require attention.

Cycle taxis becoming a popular means of transport in city center

Cycle taxis or pedicabs (bicitaxis) have become a much more common sight in downtown Mexico City. Less than three years after their introduction, they are now carrying about 180,000 passengers a year, according to an official of Mexico City’s Historic Center Trust Fund. The vehicles were introduced as part of the Trust Fund’s efforts to revitalize the historic downtown core of Mexico City. They help to reduce the city’s CO2 emissions. There are currently 132 licensed cycle taxis operating in the downtown area. They combine pedal power with small electric motors. Their “drivers” double as informal tour guides. Each cycle taxi is about 3 m (10 ft) long.

Other posts related to Mexico City

Aug 292011
 

In a previous post–Ciudad Juárez faces economic fallout from the effects of the war on drugs–we looked at how violence in one border city has adversely affected the local economy, causing many businesses to close. The violence has also resulted in many people migrating away from the city. How many have moved? There is limited evidence to quantify the movement, but one demographer believes 40,000 have fled Ciudad Juárez to the U.S. as a result of drug-war violence since 2008.

Ciudad Juárez is not the only city from which people have moved as a result of the security situation. According to some demographers, the “Mexican exodus” comprises at least 125,000 individuals who have chosen to move away from the border area, and perhaps as many as 200,000. An interesting website–Mexodus– features some quality student journalism that examines some of the personal stories involved.

In its own words, “Mexodus is an unprecedented bilingual student-reporting project that documents the flight of middle class families, professionals and businesses to the U.S. and safer areas of México because of soaring drug cartel violence and widespread petty crime in cities such as Ciudad Juárez.” The project, partly funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, involved nearly 100 student journalists from four universities:

The collaborative nine-month venture resulted in more than 20 short articles, videos and slideshows relating to the on-going exodus of working families from border cities.

What makes the Mexodus project so interesting is that it is based on highly personal stories, ranging from families who paid ransom money to kidnappers to businessmen who chose to flee rather than pay protection money to safeguard their property. Some of the articles focus on the motives and decision-making processes of people who chose to stay rather than leave.

Mexodus is a valuable resource about the effects of drug-war violence on the lives of people in Mexico’s border cities, and on their decision to stay or leave.

 

Aug 162011
 

In several previous posts we have looked at specific migration channels connecting Mexico to the USA:

A Mexican government website, for its Institute for Mexicans Abroad, has lots of statistics about the number of Mexicans registered at each of Mexico’s consulates (which number more than 40) in the USA, together with their state of origin. A series of handy interactive maps for 2008, 2009 and 2010 provide a quick overview of some of the major flows.

  • Mexicans registered in consulates in the USA, 2008
  • Mexicans registered in consulates in the USA, 2009
  • Mexicans registered in consulates in the USA, 2010

Hovering your mouse over any state in Mexico brings up details of which consulates in the USA attracted the highest number of registrations for migrants who originated from that state.

Example of map

Example of migration map, courtesy of Dr. Seth Dixon

By way of illustration, consider the patterns shown using the 2010 map for migrants who originated in the three states (Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo) forming the Yucatán Peninsula. It turns out that migrants from the state of Yucatán are far more concentrated than migrants from the other two neighboring states. About 60% of all migrants from the state of Yucatán who registered in Mexican consulates in the USA registered in either San Francisco, Los Angeles (both California) or Portland (Oregon).

For migrants from Campeche, the “top three” consulates are Omaha (Nebraska), Atlanta (Georgia) and Dallas (Texas), but these three account for only about 22% of all Campeche migrants registered with a consulate, meaning that the spread of migrants from Campeche is far less focused than that of migrants from Yucatán state.

In the case of Quintana Roo, the top three consulates for registrations are San Francisco (California), Atlanta (Georgia) and Dallas (Texas); these three account for almost 40% of all registrations of migrants from Quintana Roo.

Identifying a pattern, or variations between the patterns for several states is one thing; explaining it is another!

Q. What factors might influence the differences in patterns noted for the three states of the Yucatán Peninsula?

Aug 062011
 

The 2010 censuses in the USA and Mexico have led to numerous reports on either side of the border. This post looks mainly at recent reports from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of Pew Research Center, which describes itself as”a nonpartisan ‘fact tank’ that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.”

The total US population in 2010 was 308.7 million. The Pew report entitled U.S. Hispanic Country of Origin Counts for Nation, Top 30 Metropolitan Areas says the the USA had 50.5 million Hispanics in 2010, including 31.8 million of Mexican origin (63% of all Hispanics). [The categories are based on self-described family ancestry or place of birth in response to questions in the 2010 Census and the 2009 American Community Survey.] The population of Mexican-origin grew by 54% (11.2 million) between 2000 and 2010. Mexicans are the dominant Hispanic group in many major metropolitan areas, from Los Angeles to Chicago, and San Antonio to Atlanta, with some exceptions in the East, including Miami (Cubans) and New York (Puerto Ricans).

The report is accompanied by detailed statistical profiles, including Statistical Profile: Hispanics of Mexican Origin in the United States, 2009 that provides a concise summary of all the key data about the Mexican diaspora in the USA.

The Pew Hispanic Center has also updated its interactive maps and database on the USA’s Latino population. Data can be viewed by county for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2009 and reveal the shifting patterns of residence of the Hispanic population since 1980.

Another Pew report, The Mexican-American Boom: Births Overtake Immigration shows that, since 2000, births have overtaken immigration as the main driver for the dynamic growth of the Mexican population in the USA. This is because:

  • Mexican-Americans are younger (on average) and have higher fertility than other US groups, and
  • The numbers of Mexicans migrating to the USA has fallen. Mexico’s 2010 census revealed that emigration from Mexico to the USA has dropped significantly in recent years, from an average of 480,000/year in 2000—2005 to around 145,000/year for 2005—2010.

Hispanics in the USA lag behind the rest of the population in terms of education. For example, only 9% of Mexicans in the USA aged 25 and over have at least a  Bachelor’s degree, compared with 13% of all Hispanics in the USA and over 20% for the US population as a whole. This is reflected in median earnings, where the average personal earnings for Mexicans in the USA aged 16 and over was $20,000 in 2009, compared to $28.900 for the US population as a whole.

A Presidential Advisory Commission has been formed to look at ways to improve the academic achievement of Hispanics, the largest and fastest-growing minority in the public education system.

The growing number of Hispanics in the USA has meant that Hispanics are now looking to have a greater say in politics. This has led to the formation of the Tequila Party, a nonpartisan movement launched on 5 May (Cinco de Mayo) 2011. Their first political rally, a call to “get out and vote”, accompanied by mariachis, was held in Tucson, Arizona.

From Morelos to Minnesota; case study of a migrant channel between Mexico and USA

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Jul 262011
 

Axochiapan is a town and municipality in the small state of Morelos in central Mexico. According to the 2010 census, the population of Axochiapan municipality has grown only slowly over the past decade, from 30,436 in 2000 to 33,695 inhabitants in 2010, half of them living in the eponymous cabecera municipal (the main town of the municipality).

One of the more curious things about Axochiapan is that three of every ten people born in the municipality now live in the same small area of Minneapolis in Minnesota, USA.

By 2005, the Minneapolis-St.Paul area already had a large Hispanic community, served by 22 churches offering services in Spanish, 9 Spanish-language newspapers, 3 tortilla makers and 9 Hispanic-mostly Mexican-soccer leagues. It even has a Mexican consulate to serve the growing number of Mexican migrants living there. For more details, see:

As many as one-third of the people born in Axochiapan are thought to have moved to “El Norte” (= USA); it is estimated that 90% of all the families in Axochiapan have representatives currently living in Minneapolis-St.Paul.

According to the 2000 census, 41,600 Mexican-born people lived in Minnesota, compared to only 3,500 a decade earlier. By 2010, the figure had risen to about 68,000.

Mercado Central in Minneapolis

Mercado Central in Minneapolis

East Lake Street in Minneapolis has become a center for Mexican commercial activity, from Mexican butchers and video rentals to jewelry making, travel agents and money exchange offices. The hub of Mexican commerce is the Mercado Central, a member-owned cooperative of 48 Latino businesses opened in 1999.

Why do Mexicans migrate here?

  • Population pressure in Mexico – the 15-40-year-age bracket (the main migrant age groups) is still growing in Mexico and will for the next few years.
  • Economics – poor salaries and few job opportunities persist in rural areas of Mexico such as Axochiapan, despite numerous civic improvements, such as the paving of streets, largely financed by remittances sent home by migrants.
  • Networks of migrants provide support and encouragement for relatives and friends, making it far easier for successful migration and adaptation to life in the USA

Is migration from Axochiapan to Minnesota coming to an end?

There is growing evidence that Mexican migration to the USA is slowing down. If this turns out to be the case, it is probably a combination of the poor US economic performance in recent years, the relative strength of Mexico’s economy during that time, and the increased costs associated with entering the USA as an undocumented worker. In addition, US migration policy seems to be encouraging undocumented workers to remain, rather than return home periodically.

Conclusion? Migration flows such as this one, from Morelos to Minnesota, may currently be weakening, but it is far too early to say whether or not this decline will last for very long.

Related posts:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Jul 242011
 

This week’s “Sunday short” is about ziplines across the Guatemala-Mexico border, between El Carmen (Guatemala) and Talisman (Mexico). The story was reported by Mexico’s Televisa (a CNN affiliate). What might at first glance appear to be an enterprising form of adventure tourism is actually a means for undocumented migrants to enter Mexico on their way to the USA.

  • Migrants use zip line to cross Guatemala-Mexico border (includes video with commentary in English)

Apparently, there are several ziplines across the Suchiate River, which forms the border in this southeastern part of Mexico. The ziplines are not expensive, either. Whereas a similar ride might cost you US$60.00 in the USA or Canada, whizzing across the Suchiate River will cost you only 15 pesos or 10 quetzals (about $1.25).

Guatemalans normally require a visa to enter Mexico, but here, the local immigration authorities turn a blind eye, according to Rafael Romo, the Televisa correspondent. It is assumed that most of the Guatemalans crossing into Mexico are heading for the USA and the possibility of finding work there.

Too few discussions of the issues surrounding illegal migrants in North America recognize that Mexico faces its own problem of illegals— Central Americans desperate to cross the southern border with Guatemala, travel the length of Mexico and then cross into the USA.

If you find the zipline rates in the USA and Canada exorbitant, and want a less expensive adventure tourism experience, then head for the southern jungles of Mexico, but don’t forget to bring a Guatemalan visa with you if you plan to zipline across the Suchiate River!

How will reduced out-migration impact Mexico’s total population?

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Jul 192011
 

As described in an earlier post –Is massive Mexican migration to the USA a thing of the past?– we examined a 6 July 2011 New York Times article which indicated that Mexican migration to the USA had slowed to barely a trickle. If this is correct, Mexico’s population will be considerably higher in future years. This post estimates what this impact will be.

In another post –Projecting Mexico’s population: when, if ever, will it stop growing? – we incorporated the results of Mexico’s 2010 census and 2008 migration estimates into the most recent official population projection available from the Mexican Government’s CONAPO (Spanish acronym for National Population Commission). This analysis indicated that Mexico’s population would peak at 140.5 million in 2043, rather than the 130.3 million indicated in the older CONAPO projection.

If net migration becomes zero in the future, as suggested in the New York Times article, Mexico’s population will peak at 149.3 million in 2051. If net migration in future years is between the 2008 estimate of 203,000/year and zero, say 100,000/year, then the Mexican population will peak at 144.9 million in 2049. Clearly, the variation in these projections of almost nine million (149.3 verses 140.5) is quite significant. Given these different projections, our current thinking is that Mexico’s population will probably peak at around 145 million about mid-century.

Though population projections based on birth and deaths rates tend to be fairly accurate, net migration projections are far more precarious. Actual net migration between the two countries will depend on a wide range of future socio-economic variables for both countries. The most obvious of these variables will be fertility rates, growth of the working age population, education opportunities, economic growth, trade regulations and trends, job availability, unemployment rates, and personal preferences of both workers and retired people. There undoubtedly will be surprises such as technology changes or climate change. Some of these may have very profound impacts on migration, and therefore on total population levels.

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapters 26 and 27 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Explore the book using Amazon.com’s Look Inside feature; buy your copy today!

Is massive migration of Mexicans to the USA a thing of the past?

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Jul 122011
 

Many people in the USA continue to blame undocumented Mexican immigrants for the country’s unemployment problems. These complainers do not seem to realize that the flow of undocumented Mexicans across the border has slowed to barely a tickle.

The total number of Mexican immigrants peaked at about 550,000 in 2006 [see chapter 26 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico). That year over one million entered the USA and just under half a million returned to Mexico. With the economic recession and higher unemployment, the figure dropped to 203,000 by 2008. According Dr. Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, the flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico may have stopped altogether. He states in a July 6, 2011 article in The New York Times by Damien Cave that, “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”

While there are no hard data to back up Dr. Massey’s claim, the Pew Hispanic Center and most other experts think that net immigration of Mexicans, particularly undocumented migrants, to the USA has declined dramatically in recent years.

The New York Times article cited above suggests that the most important reasons for this observation are improved employment and educational opportunities in Mexico, rising border crimes, and reduced fertility levels in Mexico. It also mentions stricter US border enforcement, the greater danger and expense of illegal crossing, and tougher state immigration laws such as those in Arizona and Georgia.

The article also points out that the US Consulate in Mexico has changed its procedures, making it significantly easier for Mexicans to get temporary work visas (H-2A) as well as tourist visas. While this might reduce the number of undocumented immigrants, it undoubtedly has increased the number of both legal and total immigrants. Obviously some of those entering the USA with a temporary work or tourist visa might overstay their visa and become undocumented.

Scattergraph of US unemployment and net Mexican migration

Scattergraph of US unemployment and net Mexican migration Credit: Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved

It is interesting to us that The New York Times article says very little about the impact of very high US unemployment rates on the rate of immigration. Our analysis of data between 1990 and 2009 indicates that there is a strong negative correlation between the US unemployment rate and net Mexican immigration to the USA (see graph, r = -0.8, significant at the 95% level). While the reasons for reduced immigration cited in the article are all valid factors, it still remains to be seen if immigration will jump back up to about half a million a year when, and if, jobs in the USA become plentiful again and unemployment rates drop to the relatively low levels of 1998–2006.

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapters 26 and 27 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Explore the book using Amazon.com’s Look Inside feature; buy your copy today!

Are Mexico’s large cities growing faster than small cities?

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Jun 232011
 

Aside from intra-urban moves (ie. those made within a city or town), the major focus of migration in Mexico has shifted from the largest cities to the medium cities (those with a population under one million). Medium cities, such as Mérida, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro and Hermosillo, attracted over 1.6 million new migrants compared to only about 1.3 million for the largest cities. The net migration gain of medium cities was almost 370,000, nearly twice that of the nine largest cities. The new focus of migration on medium cities rather than largest urban areas was stimulated by policies to shift growth away from Mexico City. This shift should help relieve the growing congestion in Mexico City and the other large cities.

Migration between municipalities, 1995-2000, by settlement size
Migration between municipalities, 1995-2000, by settlement size. Credit: Tony Burton; all rights reserved

The pattern of migration from small towns and rural areas to urban municipalities continued throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. Between 1995 and 2000 over 1.7 million migrants left small towns and rural areas (see diagram). Where did these migrants go? Over 60% went to cities of over 100,000, which is not surprising because these cities have more dynamic economies with more employment opportunities. What is a bit surprising is that a full 27% moved to other small towns and rural areas. Many of these moves were to new corporate agricultural developments in the north. Personal and family factors were also important.

Rural areas and small towns attracted almost 1.2 million migrants during the five year period. Over 60% came from cities of over 100,000, while almost 40% came from other towns and rural areas. Many of these moves were undoubtedly earlier migrants returning to their hometowns. The net migration loss of over half a million represented only about 1.6% of the population for the five year period. This is only about one eighth of the natural population increase in these areas. In summary, though small municipalities are experiencing relatively large rates of out-migration, they are also attracting many migrants. Their relatively low rates of net migration loss mean that Mexico should continue to have a substantial rural population for the next several decades.

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This post is an excerpt from chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy today, and learn more about Mexico’s fascinating geography. The more knowledge you acquire, the more pleasure you will derive from your next trip to Mexico!

A round-up of news items about Mexicans in the USA

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May 212011
 

This is the first in an occasional series of updates featuring news items relating to the Mexican diaspora, especially that part of it residing in the USA.

1. Mexico is the leading point-of-origin for foreign-born residents of the USA diagnosed with tuberculosis

The number of TB cases reported in foreign-born persons in the USA was between 7,000 and 8,000 between 1993 and 2008, but fell slightly in 2009. In 2009, 6,854 cases (59% of the total TB diagnoses in the USA) were reported for foreign-born residents. The leading country of origin for these foreign-born TB cases was Mexico, followed by the Philippines, Vietnam, India amd China (see image).

TB cases in USA

TB cases in the USA by country of origin; click to enlarge

A second graph shows that the TB rate (per 100,000 population) has fallen 77% since 1993 for USA-born persons, a much faster decrease than the 45% decrease over the same time period for foreign-born residents. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) is reported to be working to improve the screening of immigrants and refugees, especially along the USA-Mexico border.

2. Mexican migrants to the USA experience higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders

In 2007, there were about 12 million Mexican-born people in the USA. Mexicans accounted for 30% of the foreign-born population in the USA, and 25% of the US Hispanic population. A study published in the March 2011 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that young adult Mexican migrants in the USA are much more likely to suffer depression and anxiety disorders than family members who remained in Mexico. The disorders experienced included depression, dysthymia, social phobia, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. The risk was highest for those in the 18-25 age bracket. The researchers conclude that this study offers the first direct evidence that “experiences as a migrant might lead to the onset of clinically significant mental health problems in this population”.

3. Hispanic purchasing power in the USA exceeds $1 trillion a year

According to the US Census Bureau, 2010 data show that Hispanics accounted for more than half of the total population increase in the USA over the past 10 years, a trend which is expected to continue. More than 50 million people in the USA are of Hispanic descent, 1 in 6 of the population. The buying power of Hispanics has increased sharply, from less than 4% of the domestic market in 1980 to more than 9% (more than a trillion dollars) in 2010. People of Mexican descent have an estimated buying power of $616 billion a year, easily the single most important segment of the total Hispanic market.

4. Increased remittances in 2010

Remittances sent home by Mexican migrants working in the USA increased in 2010 by 5.5% to $5 billion. The figure comes from Mexico’s central bank.

5. How much do unauthorized immigrants in the USA pay in taxes?

The answer is billions of dollars a year. Like all residents, unauthorized immigrants pay sales tax. Some, even if they rent, also pay property tax. About half of all unauthorized immigrants also pay income tax. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that the state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households headed by unauthorized immigrants may exceed $11.2 billion. That figure is made up by $1.2 billion in personal income tax, $1.6 billion in property tax and $8.4 billion in sales tax.  This is clearly a very considerable contribution to state and federal revenues.

– – –

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Projecting Mexico’s population: when, if ever, will it stop growing?

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May 172011
 

Between 2000 and 2010, Mexico’s population grew over 15% from 97.362 million to 112.337 million. While this is less than the 20% growth experienced between 1990 and 2000, it is still relatively fast. Will Mexico’s population ever stop growing? To answer such questions, demographers make population projections based on rates of births, deaths and net migration.

The most recent official population projection available from the Mexican Government’s CONAPO (Spanish acronym for National Population Commission) website estimates the Mexican population from 1990 to 2050. It estimates that the population will peak at 130.3 million in 2044 and decline gradually thereafter. This projection is many years old and does not incorporate the data from the 2010 Mexican census nor the impact on immigration of the employment recession in the USA.

In an attempt to get a better handle on Mexico’s future population dynamics until 2050, we conducted a simplified update of the CONAPO projections by using the 2010 census figures, more current net migration figures and adjusted natural population growth rates. Given the uncertain future of job opportunities in the USA for Mexican immigrants, we make the very simple assumption that net immigration from Mexico in the future will remain at 203,000 per year, the most recent figure available. (Pew Hispanic Center, “Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave?” July 22, 2009, Washington, D.C.) The Pew numbers are limited to net Mexican migration to the USA, but that migration stream represents almost all Mexican migrants.

To obtain the correct 2010 census figure, the CONAPO values for natural population increase need to be upped by about 10%, an increase of only 0.122 percentage points in 2011 (from 1.222% to 1.344%), and progressively less in subsequent years. Using these two adjustments, we estimate that Mexico’s population will peak at 140.5 million in 2047. This is more than ten million more than the original CONAPO projection on 130.3 million.

With higher net emigration, the population peak will be lower and arrive earlier. For example, if net migration is set at 360,000 per year (the average for 2011 through 2050 used in the CONAPO projection, and about 66% of the net migration in 2005 before the recession), the population will peak at 134.5 million in 2043.

Without a doubt, accurate forecasts of net migration are needed for reliable population forecasting. If the CONAPO rate of natural increase is upped by only 5%, (instead of 10%), to 1.283% in 2011, the population will peak at 135.2 million in 2044. The compounding of this change of about one twentieth of one percent results in a change of over five million in Mexico’s eventual peak population.

Until CONAPO, or some other reputable demographic agency, makes a new population projection for Mexico, we can probably safely say only that Mexico’s population will peak at between 135 and 140 million sometime between 2040 and 2050.

Related posts:

Why did CONAPO underestimate Mexico’s population by almost two million people? Mexico’s changing population dynamics

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Why did CONAPO underestimate Mexico’s population by almost two million people? Mexico’s changing population dynamics
May 122011
 

Making population projections is risky business. Birth and death rate trends can change unexpectedly. Perhaps more difficult to forecast accurately, in Mexico’s case, are international migration rates. The most recent official population projection available from the Mexican Government’s CONAPO (Spanish acronym for National Population Commission) website estimates that the Mexican population will peak at 130.3 million in 2044, before declining gradually thereafter. However, this projection is many years old, and does not incorporate the data from the 2010 Mexican census, nor the impact on immigration of the employment recession in the USA.

CONAPO projected that Mexico’s total population in 2010 would be only 110,619,340, about 1.7 million fewer than the 2010 census figure of 112,336,538. Their estimate for net migration for 2005 to 2009 was 2,012,904, which is quite close to the more recent Pew Hispanic Center figure of 2,036,000 (“Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave?” July 22, 2009). The Pew numbers are limited to net Mexican migration to the USA, but that migration stream represents almost all Mexican migrants.

However, the two sources have very different values for individual years. The CONAPO net migration projection gradually increased from 400,000 in 2005 to 405,000 in 2009, peaking at 406,000 in 2011 and gradually declining to 303,000 in 2050. The more current Pew estimates reached 547,000 in 2006-2007, before declining to 374,000 for 2007-2008 and only 203,000 for 2009-2009. Current evidence and continued lack of real job opportunities for Mexicans in the USA suggests that net migration has stayed at about this level for the past few years.

The CONAPO projection forecasts that the Mexican rate of natural population increase would decline gradually from 1.39% per year in 2005 to 0.06% per year in 2050. The average of the values they used for 2005 to 2010 was 1.313% per year. Using the actual 2010 census figure and the Pew migration numbers, we calculate that the actual average rate of natural increase for 2005 to 2010 was 1.443%. This suggests that the actual rates of natural increase were about 10% higher than the values used in the CONAPO projection. Apparently, birth rates in Mexico did not decline as fast as expected by CONAPO, consequently their estimate of Mexico’s 2010 population was significantly less than the census figure.

In a later post, we will attempt to update the existing CONAPO projection using the 2010 census figure, more recent net migration values and adjusted natural increase rates.

Which Mexican states attract most migrants?

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Which Mexican states attract most migrants?
Apr 252011
 

Mexico-USA international migration remains a hot topic in any “Geography of Mexico” program. But international migration is not the only form of migration in Mexico; internal (domestic) migration is also important. This includes people moving house within the same town or city, as well as those who move to a different town, city or state.

The most rapid period of urban growth in Mexico coincided with high rates of rural-urban migration. As the proportion of the total population residing in rural populations fell, the proportion of the population living in urban areas (defined in Mexico as settlements with a population exceeding 2,500) rose, a trend called urbanization.

Rural-urban migration within Mexico has slowed down dramatically in recent years, but internal migration is still very common, with increasing numbers of Mexicans opting to live in mid-sized cities (those with a population between 100,000 and 1,000,000). In many cases, this involves a change of state, and this post examines which states in Mexico have attracted the most migrants from other states or from outside the country.

The 2010 census reveals that 18.4% of people residing in Mexico were born in another Mexican state or in a foreign country. In Quintana Roo, 54% of the residents were born outside the state. These residents were mostly attracted to Quintana Roo by the rapidly growing tourist industry in Cancún and other resorts. Almost 13% of Quintana Roo residents moved into the state within the last five years.

Over 45% of Baja California residents, 1.4 million people, were born elsewhere, and almost 6% moved into the state in the last five years. These migrants were probably attracted to the growing employment opportunities in Tijuana and Mexicali. Some may be waiting to try to cross illegally into the USA or have already made an unsuccessful attempt and are contemplating their next move.

Baja California Sur has almost 40% who were born elsewhere and over 13% who moved into the state within the past five years. These migrants were mostly attracted to jobs created in the booming tourism industry and in the associated construction sector.

About 37% of residents in the State of Mexico, 5.6 million people, were born elsewhere. Migration to the State of Mexico is mostly linked to the suburbanization and counter-urbanization of Mexico City. Between 2005 and 2010, about half a million people moved out of Mexico City and over 380,000 of these settled in the State of Mexico and an additional 38,000 moved to Hidalgo which is part of Metropolitan Mexico City. (For the areas involved, see Is Mexico City sprawl a sign of a future megalopolis?) Similar processes are also taking place in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city: Population change in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area.

States with rather low income levels and slow economic growth attracted few migrants. Only 3.6% of Chiapas residents were born outside the state, with 1.2% moving into Chiapas in the last five years. Interestingly, Chiapas also has one the lowest rates of out-migration. Other states with relatively few migrants are Guerrero, Oaxaca, Yucatán and Tabasco.

Internal migration in Mexico is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Mexican migrant farmworkers in the USA

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Teaching ideas  Comments Off on Mexican migrant farmworkers in the USA
Mar 152011
 

The Economist (December 18-31, 2010) has a three-page article about migrant Mexican farmworkers, entitled “Fields of tears: they came to America illegally, for the best of reasons” (subscription required for web access).

This article is a great educational resource, offering dozens of possible debating points. It relates the adventures and misadventures of a young family from the state of Oaxaca, following them from their initial decision to leave for “El Norte” (USA) to their successive attempts to cross the border. They finally succeeded and “joined the vast undocumented workforce that undergirds America’s food supply”.

The Economist correspondent toiled alongside Mexican field workers as they picked strawberries in temperatures of up to 40 degrees C. (100 degrees F). The article goes on to consider the lifestyles of migrants, their access to services such as education and health care, and the degree to which they are welcomed by native-born Americans.

Looking at the life and motivation of a single family is a highly effective way of gaining familiarity with the multitude of issues related to the major flow of migrants from Mexico to the USA.

Previous posts related to Mexico-USA migration:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Feb 142011
 

The January 2011 issue of Scientific American contains “Casualties of Climate Change” which takes an in-depth look at three case studies (Mozambique, Mekong Delta and Mexico) where (according to the authors) climate-forced migrations will be inevitable in the next 70 years.

The article combines research which formed part of the European Commission’s Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios project (EACH-FOR), a global study on environmentally induced migration, with maps produced by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia’s Earth Institute.

In the case of Mexico, the case study suggests that the declining rainfalls and decreasing water availability resulting from climate change will lead to more frequent and more prolonged droughts, especially in central and western Mexico, alongside an increase in the frequency and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes. The authors cite evidence from interviews in the state of Tlaxcala that some climate-induced migration is already under way, as rainfall totals and timing have become less predictable.

Of course, predicting what the climate in Mexico (and elsewhere) will be like in 2080 is a decidedly risky undertaking. At best, such predictions are a statistical guesstimate. Even so, it is still useful to consider alternative climate change scenarios, together with their likely impacts on  environmental hazards and future movements of people. Looking at the alternatives may allow the development of strategies and policies which can reduce or minimize the adverse  social, human, economic and environmental impacts.

Four colorful maps accompany the Mexico case study:

  • population density
  • rain-fed agricultural land
  • incidence of drought
  • predicted change in runoff.

The downside: In some instances, data given in the text appears to conflict with the data shown on these maps. Furthermore, no definition for “drought” is offered in either the text or the relevant map. The drought map’s categories are stated to be “percent of growing season that experienced drought, 1988-2007) but some methodological clarification of the underlying assumptions made and how these figures were calculated would have greatly enhanced the map’s value.

Previous posts about climate change in Mexico:

Mexico’s environmental trends and issues are examined in chapter 30 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, purchase your own copy…

Mexico’s farm workers move north, US agri-businesses move south…

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Mexico’s farm workers move north, US agri-businesses move south…
Jan 032011
 

Mexican migrant workers have played an important role in US agriculture for decades, especially during harvest time, when they fill temporary menial and low-paid positions.

In recent years, border restrictions and periodic US crack-downs on the employment of undocumented workers have reduced the number of Mexicans seeking seasonal jobs north of the border. This has apparently resulted in some US agricultural enterprises deciding to shift their production centers into Mexico – if the workers won’t come to the farms, then the farms have to come to the workers…

Lettuce farm

Steve Scaroni's lettuce farm. Photo: Janet Jarman, The World.

One example, that of a major lettuce grower, is described in detail in the Public Radio International’s The World program American farmers move to Mexico, which includes an interesting audio clip of Steve Scaroni describing why he’s moved half his lettuce-growing business south to the state of Guanajuato.

Scaroni’s company plants, harvests and processes 20 million servings of lettuce each week, mostly distributed via US supermarkets.

Scaroni compares the pay of each field worker in Arizona or California of $9-$10 an hour, with the $12 to $15 he pays in Mexico per day. Wage differentials are not the only advantage. Geographical diversification into Mexico also spreads the risk (and increases his firm’s resilience) in the event of adverse weather conditions.

On the flip side, Scaroni has to cope with added transportation costs, the complexities of the Mexican tax system, and supply problems for vital inputs such as fertilizers.

Scaroni supports a proposed US immigration bill known as “AgJobs” which would give farm workers more rights, offer a path to legal status, and make it easier for American farmers to bring in temporary immigrant workers.

Mexico’s agriculture is analyzed in chapter 15 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. and concepts of sustainability are explored in chapters 19 and 30.  Buy your copy today, so you have this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography available whenever you need it.

On-going changes in the migration landscape of Tijuana, Baja California

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on On-going changes in the migration landscape of Tijuana, Baja California
Jan 012011
 

An interesting recent Salem-News.com article summarizes the effects on the migration landscape of the city of Tijuana, Baja California, of the USA’s imposition of tighter border controls, including walls, fences and helicopter patrols.

There is no question that the economic downturn since 2008 and toughened border controls have reduced the number of migrants entering the USA. However, this has channeled the most determined would-be migrants into more challenging (and often more dangerous) options. It has also pushed the costs up. Twenty years ago, a few hundred dollars was probably sufficient to enlist the help of a “pollero” to cross the border undetected. Today, border gangs want several thousand dollars from each undocumented migrant who seeks their assistance.

Three favored options for crossing the border:

  • pay a smuggling gang $2,000 – $3,000 for a trip across the desert or mountains between Mexicali and Arizona.
  • pay up to $7,000 for a trip through one of the narco-tunnels (used mainly by drug smugglers)
  • pay up to $8,000 for a place on a high-speed boat leaving from Rosarito Beach and landing somewhere on the California coastline
  • the alternative is a dangerous solo hike across desert or mountains, through areas where many migrants have lost their lives.

Border security changes have had some major effects on Tijuana:

  • many migrants are unable to cross, swelling the numbers of poorly skilled workers in the Tijuana workforce. With insufficient formal sector jobs for all these workers, many enter the murky worlds of pornography, drug trafficking and the sex trade.
  • those unable to migrate tend to live in Tijuana’s lowest-income neighborhoods such as Valle Verde, Obrera, Lomas Taurinas, La Esperanza, El Niño and La Morita, which are growing very rapidly
  • more power has been gained by the organized gangs of traffickers, since they are the only ones with the resources to help undocumented migrants attempt to cross the border

Previous posts related to Mexican migrants in the USA:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Mexican migrants outnumber migrants from any other country in the world

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Mexican migrants outnumber migrants from any other country in the world
Dec 312010
 

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently released The World Migration Report 2010.

According to the IOM, more people have migrated from Mexico than from any other country in the world. 10.1 million Mexicans now live outside their homeland, equivalent to about 9% of the current national population. Even more Mexicans would be living in the USA and Canada, if it were not for the recent world economic problems.

After Mexico, the main “exporters” of people are Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, El Salvador, Brazil, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Peru. The IMO estimates that 26.6 million people born in Latin America or the Caribbean currently reside outside their country of birth. Combined, these migrants account for about 15% of the world’s total international migrants, and send 64.7 billion dollars a year back to their respective home countries.

The Mexico-USA migration flow is the world’s most important bi-national flow. According to the IOM, 9.3 million “born in Mexico” Mexicans currently live in the USA. Remittances sent home by Mexicans working outside the country totaled 21.2 billion dollars in 2009, a drop of 15.7% from 2008.

And how do Mexicans cross the border?

We will examine this question in more detail in the New Year, but for now (thanks to Frank Koughan and his Burro Hall blog) we share the view of the UK’s Daily Mail, which in Exodus: After thousands of deaths, citizens finally give up and flee Mexico’s most violent city, Juarez, seriously suggests that droves of violence-torn Ciudad Juárez residents are fleeing each day for El Paso, Texas – by plane!

[Note to Daily Mail: Consultation on any aspect of Mexico’s geography is available anytime  for a modest fee from geo-mexico.com]

Previous posts related to Mexican migrants in the USA:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Mexican migrants pay 53 billion dollars a year in US taxes

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Mexican migrants pay 53 billion dollars a year in US taxes
Nov 272010
 

Mexicans migrate to the USA looking for work and higher salaries, but those workers pay 53 billion dollars a year in taxes, according to Ignacio Deschamps, head of the Fundación BBVA Bancomer. (The BBVA Bancomer Foundation has helped 20,000 young people in 143 municipalities complete their high school education.)

Deschamps claims that for every dollar sent home in remittances, Mexican workers will have already paid 2.50 dollars in US taxes. Hence, in 2008, they would have contributed 53 billion dollars to the US Treasury.

Recent figures show that during the economic downturn, unemployment among Mexican migrants is much higher (13%) than for the workforce as a whole (10%).

Previous posts related to Mexican migrants in the USA:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

How important are remittances to Mexico’s economy?

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on How important are remittances to Mexico’s economy?
Nov 202010
 

There are millions of Mexican workers in the USA who send a sizable portion of their wages back to their families in Mexico. On a per person basis, Mexico receives more worker remittances than any other major country in the world.

States receiving the most remittances (highest value)

The ten states receiving the most remittances (by value). All rights reserved.

An estimated 20% of Mexican residents regularly receive some financial support from workers abroad. Such remittances are the mainstay of the economies of many Mexican communities, such as many rural areas in Durango, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Michoacán. Studies suggest that the funds sent as remittances are mostly spent on housing, food, clothing and durable consumer goods. A growing portion is being invested in education and small businesses. The corollary is that only a small percentage goes towards savings.

In 2008, remittances flowing back to Mexico exceeded $25 billion.The value of remittances fell slightly in 2009, according to World Bank figures, but are forecast to increase again this year. Only India and China, both with far higher populations than Mexico, have larger sums of remittances entering their economies.

According to figures published in The Economist (13-19 November 2010), remittances in Mexico are equivalent to 2.5% of the nation’s GDP. Mexico’s degree of reliance on remittances is greatly exceeded by the comparable figures of 22.4% of GDP for Lebanon, 11.8% for Bangladesh, 11.7% in the Philippines, 7.0% in Vietnam, 6.0% in Pakistan and 3.9% for India. (In China, remittances account for only 1.0% of GDP).

Related posts on this bog:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Job recovery in the USA for foreign-born workers

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Job recovery in the USA for foreign-born workers
Nov 102010
 

Recent data indicate that between June 2009 and June 2010 foreign-born workers in the USA gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million jobs. Foreign-born Hispanics gained 392,000 new jobs, but their pay declined by 5.8%. The majority of foreign-born Hispanics are from Mexico. Assuming Mexicans obtained a big share of these employment gains, we can expect that immigration from Mexico is increasing from the relatively low numbers observed in 2008 and 2009.

During the deepest part of the recession, between June 2008 and June 2009, jobs held by foreign-born workers in the USA fell by 1.1 million. Looking at the two year period between June 2008 and June 2009, foreign-born workers lost about 400,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 5.7 million jobs. Apparently, employers prefer to hire lower paid, temporary foreign-born (Mexican) workers than native-born workers who are more apt to demand higher pay and benefit packages.

Source

R. Kochhar, C.S. Espinoza, and R. Hinze-Pifer, “After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gain Jobs; Native Born Lose Jobs”, Pew Hispanic Center, Washington DC, Oct. 29, 2010 (pdf file).

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

The impact of the economic recession on Mexico-USA migration

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on The impact of the economic recession on Mexico-USA migration
Nov 032010
 

Mexicans have been migrating from Mexico to find better employment for decades. Virtually all of this migration, over 95%, is to the USA. Migration to the USA accelerated rapidly after about 1970. Throughout this period, there has been a strong current of return migration back to Mexico. At present there are about 12 million Mexican-born residents of the USA.

The net flow of migrants peaked at about 550,000 in 2006-07.  That year over one million Mexicans entered the USA and just under 500,000 returned to Mexico. However, the recent economic recession had a strong negative impact on immigration from Mexico.

The net flow 2007-08 was down to about 375,000, with just over 800,000 entering and about 440,000 returning to Mexico. A year later, the net flow was about 200,000, with roughly 635,000 entering and 435,000 returning. Data for 2009-10 are not yet available.

It is interesting to note that in the two year period between 2006-07 and 2008-09 immigration dropped by almost 40%, while return migration declined by less than 10%. Apparently, potential immigrants in Mexico knew that jobs are scarce in the USA and thus they were relatively reluctant to migrate. On the other hand, many Mexicans in the USA appear to be hanging on and making money however possible in an effort to stay in the USA. This is particularly interesting because one might assume that undocumented workers in the USA might be among the first to be laid off.

Source:

J.S. Passel and D. Cohn; “Recession Slows – but Does Not Reverse – Mexican Immigration”, Pew Hispanic Center, Washington DC, July 22, 2009.

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern MexicoAsk your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Over half a million natives of the state of Puebla live in New York City

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Over half a million natives of the state of Puebla live in New York City
Aug 252010
 

The New York City area is now home to over half a million poblanos, natives of the Mexican state of Puebla. A 2005 Smithsonian article by Jonathan Kandell (available here as a pdf file) takes a close look at their expectations and aspirations. Most started as undocumented workers, but many have gained legal status through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (ICRA) or a variety of other means.

The story of Ricardo and Aldea is just one example. They got to New York by crossing the 49o C (120o F) Sonoran Desert in the summer of 2003. They work 70-hour weeks for less than the minimum wage. She will pay for her month long trip back to Puebla by serving as a courier, or paquetera, a person who carries clothing, electronics, and other gifts from immigrants to their families.

Getting back and forth across the border without proper documents is more difficult than it used to be, but is not a significant problem. Most rely on trusted polleros, often called coyotes, who provide border crossing service for fees ranging from a few hundred dollars for just crossing the border to a few thousand dollars for door-to-door service.

Population pyramid for Piaxtla, 2000.

Population pyramid for Piaxtla, 2000. How does this pyramid reflect out-migration?

Migration has had a profound impact on villages in Puebla, such as Piaxtla. Most of the 1600 current residents of Piaxtla are either children or elderly (see population pyramid). The mayor claims that “maybe three out of four of my constituents live in New York”. The hundreds of millions of dollars send back each year are having a dramatic effect on rural communities in Puebla. Forty years ago, virtually all the houses were made of palm-thatch adobe. Now they are mostly brick and concrete. Many are topped with satellite dishes.

The towns also have new restaurants, taxis, video arcades, cybercafes, and newly paved streets, all made possible from remittances. Ironically, the towns are sparsely populated and many of the new houses are empty because their owners are working in New York.

Most youth consider the prospect of migration. Few think about careers in Mexico or becoming artisans and continuing Puebla’s long tradition of ceramics, woodworking and weaving. Teenagers show little interest in corn farming, the traditional mainstay of the local economy. In short, migrating to jobs in New York has become the norm.

Somewhat similar migration channels link:

For previous posts about remittances, the funds sent home by migrant workers, see:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Aug 182010
 

People in the small village of Napizaro near Lake Pátzcuaro in Michoacán are very familiar with North Hollywood, California, which is over 2400 km (1500 miles) away. Almost everyone born in Napizaro now over 20 years old is living, or has lived, in North Hollywood, which is home to at least one member of virtually every family in Napizaro.

Map showing location of Napizaro, Michoacan

Map showing location of Napizaro on Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Click to enlarge.

Initially, a few migrants from Napizaro found good jobs in North Hollywood. Through letters, phone calls and visits home, they told their friends and relatives in Napizaro and new migrants headed north. Movement between the places increased significantly. The majority of young boys and many young girls look forward to the day when they can travel to North Hollywood and start making real money. Many of the migrants from Napizaro moved their immediate families and settled permanently in North Hollywood.

Remittances sent back from workers in North Hollywood have had a big impact on Napizaro. The village has numerous impressive brick homes, with cars parked in the driveways and satellite TV dishes on the roofs. The newly built bull ring is named “North Hollywood.”

This is another example of a migration channel linking two rather distant places.  There are numerous migration channels between specific towns in Mexico and particular places in the USA.

Another migration channel links Aguililla, Michoacán, and Redwood City, California

For previous posts about remittances, the funds sent home by migrant workers, see:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Migration channels between Mexico and the USA, or how distant towns are linked through migration

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Migration channels between Mexico and the USA, or how distant towns are linked through migration
Aug 132010
 

The municipality of Aguililla, Michoacán, is closely linked to Redwood City, California, over 2900 kilometers (1800 miles) away. Redwood City has about 37,000 Latino residents, perhaps half of which were originally from Aguililla. There are almost as many Aguilillans in Redwood City as there is in the municipality of Aguililla, which has about 25,000 residents. Aguililla and Redwood City are officially “Sister Cities”.

Coat-of-arms of Aguililla, Michoacán

Coat-of-arms of Aguililla, Michoacán, clearly showing the road out...

How did this linkage form?  Under the Bracero program many workers from Aguililla got temporary visas to work in California’s San Joaquin and Salinas valleys. Since agricultural work was seasonal, the immigrants looked for more permanent employment.

A number found jobs in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco. Word spread to Aguililla relatives and friends in the Bracero program. They headed for Redwood City where they got assistance in finding jobs and homes from earlier Aguilillan migrants. Many returned to their hometown and soon everyone in Aguililla learned about the good jobs and good life in Redwood City.

Before long there was a significant stream of workers leaving Aguililla headed for Redwood City.  Many early migrants became permanent and moved their families. But they retained their ties to Aguililla and made return trips from time to time so their children could learn their roots and see their grandparents. The remittances sent back from workers in Redwood City have been important to the Aguilillan economy for over 60 years.

This is an example of a migration channel which links two rather distant places. There are numerous migration channels between specific towns in Mexico and particular places in the USA.  We look at other examples in other posts.

The principle of distance decay suggests that the strength of links between settlements is usually inversely proportional to the distance between them (places close together, strong links; places further apart, weaker links). Migration channels cause anomalies in this pattern, since they often lead to strong spatial interactions which do not match those expected from distance decay.

For previous posts about remittances, the funds sent home by migrant workers, see:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Aug 092010
 

The Bracero program started in 1942 as a way to alleviate the severe US labor shortage during the second world war. It gave selected Mexicans renewable six-month visas to work temporarily on US farms. Most workers came from Michoacán, Jalisco, and Guanajuato. Many US farmers became very dependent on the productive and relatively cheap Mexican labor.

Los BracerosMany Mexican workers also entered the USA without visas and easily found well-paying jobs in agriculture and other sectors. Numerous US industries began to depend on these undocumented workers. The US government and public accepted this reality; they were preoccupied fighting a war.

The Bracero Program was considered such a success that it continued long after the war ended. It was finally repealed in 1964, largely as a result of pressure from labor unions, who felt it held down farm wages, and Latino groups which felt it impeded the upward mobility of US Hispanics.

An estimated 4.5 million Mexican Bracero workers legally entered the USA between 1942 and 1964. At its height in the late 1950s, more than 500,000 workers migrated each year. Most were temporary migrants who returned to Mexico within a year. Migration to the USA became an integral part of the socio-economic fabric of many rural communities in west central Mexico. In many cases, families and villages became trans-national. Workers divided their time between work in the USA and their families in Mexico.

The Bracero program set the stage for the continued high volume of Mexican labor migration to the USA. Closure of the Bracero program had minimal impact on migration, which continued to grow steadily through the 1960’s and 1970’s before accelerating rapidly after 1980.

For more information about the Bracero program: The Bracero Archive

For previous posts about remittances, the funds sent home by migrant workers, see:

Migration between Mexico and the USA is the focus of chapter 25 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…

Jul 312010
 

The relationship between global climate change and (US) immigration is analyzed in a July 26 Scientific American article by David Biello titled “Climate Change May Mean More Mexican Immigration.”

migration at US border

The Mexico-US border

Analysis of data from 1995 to 2005 indicates that a 10% drop in crop yields (from drought) is correlated with an approximate 2% increase in Mexican migration to the USA. Climate change will also affect crop yields in the coming years and can also be expected, therefore, to influence migration rates. This is an interesting new perspective.  Previously, most studies have focused on the relationship between migration and unemployment rates in the USA, as well as the importation of cheap corn from the USA under NAFTA.

Using data on predicted global warming and the relationship between temperature increase and reduction in crop yields, the study suggests the total number of climate refugees [see comment below] emigrating to the USA during the next 70 years could be 1.4 to 6.7 million, an average of about 20,000 to 96,000 per year. This is rather small compared to the estimated average of 460,000 net migrants per year from Mexico to the USA between 1995 and 2005.

Obviously, making such a long range forecast based on current data is risky for several reasons.  First, predicted levels of global warming are uncertain.  Second, new varieties of drought resistant corn and other crops may be developed.  Third, the Mexican farming population is declining.  Fourth, many of these climate refuges could end up in Mexican cities.  Fifth, global warming may affect the number of available jobs in the USA.

Despite these limitations, the study is important because it adds to our understanding of the factors contributing to Mexican migration to the USA and provides a rational estimate of the impact of global warming on migration.  The article by Biello is drawn from research published by Feng et al in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mexican migration to the USA is the focus of chapter 26 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.