Recession Slows – but Does Not Reverse – Mexican Immigration

Jul 22, 2009

The flow of immigrants from Mexico to the United States has declined sharply since mid-decade, but there is no evidence of an increase during this period in the number of Mexican-born migrants returning home from the U.S., according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of government data from both countries.

The Mexican-born population in the U.S., which had been growing earlier in the decade, was 11.5 million in early 2009. That figure is not significantly different from the 11.6 million Mexican immigrants in 2008 or the 11.2 million in 2007.

The current recession has had a harsh impact on employment of Latino immigrants, raising the question of whether an increased number of Mexican-born residents are choosing to return home. This new Pew Hispanic Center analysis finds no support for that hypothesis in government data from the United States or Mexico.

Mexico is by far the leading country of origin for U.S. immigrants, accounting for a third (32%) of all foreign-born residents and two-thirds (66%) of Hispanic immigrants. The U.S. is the destination for nearly all people who leave Mexico, and about one-in-ten people born there currently lives in the U.S.

Patterns of migration between the U.S. and Mexico are varied. Many immigrants come from Mexico to settle permanently, but large numbers also move both ways across the U.S.-Mexico border throughout the year, sometimes staying for only a few months, a pattern known as circular migration. Mexican-U.S. migration also tends to be seasonal, with larger northbound flows in the spring and summer and larger southbound flows in the fall and winter.

This report examines whether the recent annual volume of movement between the U.S. and Mexico has gone up or down in either direction. It relies on major national population surveys from Mexico and the U.S., as well as on U.S. Border Patrol apprehension figures. No single source presents the full picture of migration flows between the two countries, but the three sources examined point to similar conclusions.

Read the full report Mexican Immigrants: How Many Come? How Many Leave? on the Pew Hispanic Center's Web site.

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