Thursday, May 3, 2012

Net Migration from Mexico to the United States Now Zero

With the Supreme Court case Arizona v. United States in full momentum last week, it is helpful to review the current state of immigration in the United States. The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a report entitled “Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less,” which suggests that the weak domestic economy has resulted in reduced immigration to the United States. The report also touches on demographic changes that have contributed to reduced emigration from Mexico, including a stabilizing economy in Mexico and a declining birth rate.

This new report emphasizes trends previously predicted by the Mexican Migration Project, highlighting zero net migration from Mexico to the United States in 2008. It also echoes 2010 Pew research which supported the claim that overall illegal immigration to the United States dropped, with illegal Mexican immigration falling 70% in 2007 to 2009 in comparison to rates from the first half of the decade.

Emigration from Mexico serves as an important marker for immigration trends due to the significant numbers of migrant movement between the two countries. The United States has 12 million immigrants from Mexico, more than any other country in the world has from all countries of the world, with 30% of current United States immigrants born in Mexico. Putting this into perspective, the next largest immigrant demographic in the United States is from China, accounting for only 5% of the total 40 million immigrants in the country. Half of Mexican immigrants are unauthorized, comprising 58% of the overall undocumented immigrant population of the United States estimated to be 11.2 million. However, it is important to recognize that all these demographics, regardless of legal status, contribute to the American economy. The Immigration Policy Center, using data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), released findings that illegal immigrants collectively pay $11.2 billion in state and local taxes, including $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes. With three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States for over a decade (and paying taxes with little use of social services), immigrant integration into the country is essential for aiding economic stability.

The Pew study is careful to mention how current immigration trends are not new or unique, and in fact, parallel historical immigration trends: “When measured not in absolute numbers but as a share of the immigrant population at the time, immigration waves from Germany and Ireland in the late 19th century equaled or exceeded the modern wave from Mexico.” Immigration has traditionally and still continues to function as a mechanism of where the most available jobs are located for the migrants seeking a new start in another country. When economic or social situations shift relative from parent country to destination country, immigration decreases. Immigrant-unfriendly legislation such as the current Supreme Court case and the decrease of available jobs in the United States both could have contributed to the current stagnation of the Mexican immigrant wave.

However, the Pew study may not speak to larger immigration trends. According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, the United States’ immigrant population has continued to grow from all other countries except Mexico, reaching 39.6 million in 2011. The study highlights economic and demographic trends in Mexico that may explain this change in migration as a special case study rather than representative of global immigration. For example, the demographics research in the report, including statistics showing a declining birth rate, suggests that there are fewer people of working age completing for jobs in the Mexican economy This further reinforces the claim that job availability is the main attraction for both documented and undocumented immigrants to migrate to the United States: When there are available jobs in one’s home country, one is less likely to emigrate elsewhere.

The study also evaluates other statistical factors that emphasize this trend of decreased migration. Mexican GDP per capita grew by 5.5% in 2010 and 3.9% in 2011 - above comparable rates in United States. Poverty rates in Mexico have significantly decreased, from 69% in 1996 to 51% in 2010. While this poverty rate is still significantly too high to be acceptable, it does suggest that the Mexican economy is improving.  Characteristics of Mexican-born immigrants living in the United States and an outline of Mexico’s current economic and population statistics are also provided in the report to provide a fuller picture of all the mechanisms which might also account for Mexican migration to the United States reaching zero after decades of consistently increasing migration.  

Most importantly, this report proves that the most common reason immigrants leave their home country is to seek employment and to create better living circumstances for their families. Policymakers supporting immigrant communities by providing access to needed services and supports and promoting policies that ensure immigrant families feel welcome and integrate successfully into work, school and community ensure that their states are economically and socially healthy places for all residents to live.  For more information on how policy can influence social trends and positively impact diverse populations, visit


  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

  2. While immigration to the United States is well documented, so is emigration from the United States