Panel Paper: Wages and Length-of-Stay in the United States: An Analysis of Return Migration Among Mexican Migrants

Friday, July 20, 2018
Building 3, Room 207 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mariam Ghavalyan, Georgetown University

The political rhetoric on immigration in the United States often misrepresents U.S.-Mexico migration trends by focusing on the flow of Mexican immigrants into the United States. The reality is that many migrants return to Mexico after living in the U.S. for a period of time. Some of the most important dynamics related to return migration can be captured by focusing on length-of-stay in the U.S. Because economic opportunities traditionally drive immigration, it is likely that they also drive decisions regarding length-of-stay. This paper examines the extent to which hourly wages earned during Mexican immigrants’ last U.S. trip may have contributed to the length of time that they lived in the U.S. Using individual-level survey data on Mexican household heads from the Mexican Migration Project, I find that wages are positively correlated with length-of-stay. I also find that this relationship is weaker for undocumented than for documented immigrants.These findings suggest a need to incorporate nuanced measures of migration patterns when forming economic or immigration policies.