Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Mexican Migration

Cato Unbound has a an essay by Richard Rodriguez (click here to read).  One of the responses to the essay is from demographer Douglas Massey, who writes in part that:

Mexican immigration is not a tidal wave. The rate of undocumented migration has not increased in over two decades. Neither is Mexico a demographic time bomb; its fertility rate is only slightly above replacement. Although a variety of trans-border population movements have increased, this is to be expected in a North American economy that is increasingly integrated under the terms of a mutually-ratified trade agreement. Undocumented migration stems from the unwillingness of the United States to include labor within the broader framework governing trade and investment. Rates of migration between Mexico and the United States are entirely normal for two countries so closely integrated economically. Mexico is not impoverished or disorganized. It is a dynamic, one trillion dollar economy and, along with Canada, our largest trading partner. Its per capita income is $10,000, which puts it at the upper tier of middle income countries, not far behind Russia’s per capita income of $11,000. Compared with Russia, however, Mexico has a much better developed infrastructure of highways, ports, railroads, telecommunications, and social services that give it a poverty rate of 18% rather than 40%, as well as a male life expectancy of 73 years rather than 61 years (U.S. figures are 12% and 75 years, respectively). Unlike Russia, moreover, Mexico is a functioning democracy with open and competitive elections, a separation of powers, and a well-defined party system. In keeping with these realities, Mexicans are not desperate to settle north of the border. Most migrants are not fleeing poverty so much as seeking social mobility. They typically have a job and income in Mexico and are seeking to finance some economic goal at home—acquiring a home, purchasing land, capitalizing a business, investing in education, smoothing consumption. Left to themselves, the vast majority of migrants will return once they have met their economic goals. From 1965 to 1985, 85% of undocumented entries from Mexico were offset by departures and the net increase in the undocumented population was small. The build-up of enforcement resources at the border has not decreased the entry of migrants so much as discouraged their return home. Since the late 1980s the rate of undocumented out-migration has been halved. Undocumented population growth in the United States stems not from rising in-migration, but from falling out-migration.

For the rest of Massey's essay, click here.


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