Where do Mexicans come from?

What I mean is – when you look at the Mexicans who emigrate to the United States, which Mexican states did they originally come from?

The background here is that my family was recently in Merida (in the Mexican state of Yucatan) and my wife observed that there were many prosperous-looking young adults around. She wondered out-loud if many people from Yucatan emigrated to the United States, or if this was the sort of place where young Mexicans tended to stay put.

So, Popper said something like – who cares where a hypothesis comes from, what matters is how it stands up to testing. Let’s test this one.

But first a little context, overall Mexican migration to the United States is WAY DOWN. From 1995 to 2000, about 3 million Mexicans emigrated to the United States. That number from 2005 to 2010 was down to 1.4 million. So when we talk about Mexican immigration today we are talking about much lower numbers overall.

Now back to the original question – where in Mexico are Mexican immigrants coming from. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there has been a real shift in the last 20 years. In 2008, Mexicans moving to the United States came from

  • Chiapas (136,388, or 14.2 percent)
  • Guanajuato (82,701, or 8.6 percent)
  • Oaxaca (69,473, or 7.2 percent)
  • Sonora (66,826, or 6.9 percent)
  • Michoacán (62,108, or 6.5 percent)
  • Veracruz (56,185, or 5.8 percent)
  • Mexico (54,428, or 5.7 percent)
  • Jalisco (51,443, or 5.3 percent)

In 1995, the list looked quite different:

  • Guanajuato (17.6 percent)
  • Michoacán (16.6 percent)
  • Jalisco (7.4 percent)
  • Zacatecas (6.1 percent)

That’s nearly half of all Mexican immigrants coming from just four states in 1995. And that’s at a time when Mexican immigration flows were twice as large as they are now. In  other words, the number of Mexicans coming into the US from those four states in the mid-1990s was larger than the total number of Mexicans (from all Mexican states) coming into the US now.

Total Mexico-US migration is down, and the state of Yucatan does not appear on our list of top states-of-origin for Mexican immigrants to the US.

And then there’s this report from OECD, saying that net outmigration from the state of Yucatan from 1990-2005 was less than 4,000. (!) This of course masks a lot of people moving in and lot of people moving out, but the report notes that most of the people moving in are moving to Merida and Cancun for work (essentially the rural areas are emptying-out while the cities are expanding). The report also says that about 34,000 people from Yucatan have migrated to the US over the past 15 years, which is a tiny number. The same report suggests that Cancun in Quintana Roo is also a source of significant in-migration as the tourist resorts from Cancun and south along the coastline continue to expand.

It appears that my wife’s hypothesis about few Mexican immigrants to the US coming from Yucatan has survived the first round of testing.

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