Mexican Immigration Has Fallen to a 60-Year Low

Among the reasons: more attractive jobs at home and a shrinking migrant pool

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Illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States has fallen precipitously in the last decade. Even though that statistic isn't brand new, this morning The New York Times reports: "Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, an extensive, long-term survey in Mexican emigration hubs, said his research showed that interest in heading to the United States for the first time had fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s." The newspaper is leading with an interesting investigation into the question of "why." Their answer? It's not just about a U.S. crackdown; there are numerous Mexico-centric trends (greater educational opportunities, larger job market) at play that have contributed to the decrease in interest for Mexicans to hop the border. Here are a few of the trends we noticed in the Times report (read in full, here):

  • 'The pool of likely migrants is shrinking'

In simple terms, Mexican families are smaller than they had once been. The pool of likely migrants is shrinking. Despite the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, birth control efforts have pushed down the fertility rate to about 2 children per woman from 6.8 in 1970, according to government figures. So while Mexico added about one million new potential job seekers annually in the 1990s, since 2007 that figure has fallen to an average of 800,000, according to government birth records. By 2030, it is expected to drop to 300,000.

  • Crossing the border is more expensive, while economic opportunities in Mexico are growing

Crossing "mojado," wet or illegally, has become more expensive and more dangerous, particularly with drug cartels dominating the border. At the same time, educational and employment opportunities have greatly expanded in Mexico. Per capita gross domestic product and family income have each jumped more than 45 percent since 2000, according to one prominent economist, Roberto Newell. Despite all the depictions of Mexico as "nearly a failed state," he argued, "the conventional wisdom is wrong."

  • The wage disparity for migrants has decreased

In 2003, when David Fitzgerald, a migration expert at the University of California, San Diego, came to Arandas, he found that the wage disparity with the United States had narrowed: migrants in the north were collecting 3.7 times what they could earn at home. That gap has recently shrunk again. The recession cut into immigrant earnings in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, even as wages have risen in Mexico, according to World Bank figures.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.