Emigrant or sojourner? The determinants of Mexican labor migration strategies to the United States

2008 2008

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation examines migration behavior with a focus on male labor migrants from Mexico to the United States. I develop the concept of migration intensity, defined as the degree to which a migrant shifts his attachment, association and engagement from the place of origin to the migration destination. Using data for male Mexican migrants in the years 1950 to 2005, I find strong complementarities among remittances, migration patterns, and investment decisions, allowing me to derive an Index of Migration Intensity (IMI). The IMI shows that male Mexican migrants use a continuum of labor migration strategies.

Augmenting a conventional Harris-Todaro model, I develop a simultaneous model for the initial migration, return, repeat migration, and remittance decisions of migrant workers. This model can incorporate various migration strategies, including "circular migration," "target earning," and "emigration." Modeling the effects of immigration policies, I find that stricter border enforcement has two consequences: an intended deterrence effect, and an unintended intensification effect whereby stricter border controls lead migrants to make fewer return trips, prolong total U.S. time, and reduce remittances. The impact of the latter on origin-country incomes may induce others to migrate as well.

I then examine the determinants of Mexicans’ propensity to migrate illegally (extensive migration behavior) and their degree of socio-economic detachment from home (intensive migration behavior), using instrumental variables estimation with individual fixed effects. My findings support the hypotheses that stricter U.S. border enforcement leads to higher migration intensity, which in turn leads to a net increase in the volume of illegal Mexican migration. My results also indicate that reducing the U.S.—Mexican wage gap would curtail both the extent of illegal migration and migration intensity.

The dissertation also investigates the significance of social networks in facilitating undocumented Mexican migration to the U.S. I argue that the importance of social network assistance arises from problems of asymmetric information. Drawing on secondary data sets as well as field research, I quantify the extent of social network assistance, disaggregated by type of assistance and helper.

Indexing (details)

Labor economics;
Hispanic Americans;
0510: Labor economics
0737: Hispanic Americans
0938: Demographics
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Illegal migration; Index of Migration Intensity; Investment; Labor migration; Mexican; Remittances; Social networks
Emigrant or sojourner? The determinants of Mexican labor migration strategies to the United States
Kaufmann, Florian K.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 69/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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