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52 Chapter 4 System Specifications: Empirical Parameters and Constants in the U.S.Mexican Immigration System, 1965 to 1985 T he demise of the bracero program and increasing restrictions on legal immigration after 1965 transformed a de jure system of circular migration based on the movement of legal guest workers into a de facto machinery of seasonal migration based on the recurrent movement of undocumented laborers. Rather than being “out of control,” however, Mexico-U.S. migration by the early 1980s had evolved into a stable system with an identifiable structure. In this chapter, we describe the practical operation of this system from 1965 to 1985, focusing on seven key junctures in the migratory career: leaving , crossing, arriving, working, remitting, returning, and departing again. We show that at each step, Mexicans behaved in logical, consistent ways to produce a stable migratory system that yielded a welldefined population of transnational migrants. Steps in the Migratory Career, 1965 to 1985 Our empirical characterization of Mexico-U.S. migration is based on data from the Mexican Migration Project (MMP), a large, binational data set for which detailed information has been compiled over the past two decades on documented and undocumented migrants from a diverse set of seventy-one binational communities created through the continuous movement of inhabitants back and forth across the border. At the time of this writing, the MMP database included 12,322 households and 83,527 subjects, of whom 17,602 had taken at least System Specifications 53 one trip to the United States. The MMP and its data files are described in appendix A, and complete documentation and all data from the project are available from the MMP website (www.pop. Systematic evaluations of these data have shown them to be reliable and accurate. Although the MMP database is not strictly representative of either Mexico or Mexican migrants, in practical terms the characteristics of migrants included in the MMP sample closely match those identified in a representative national survey (Zenteno and Massey 1999). Unlike the representative surveys, however , the MMP data provide a wealth of detailed information about the migrant experience itself and generally do a better job of capturing household members who are temporarily absent for work abroad (Massey and Zenteno 2000). Leaving The starting point in any migratory process is the decision to leave on a first trip. We use MMP data on date of first trip to compute the probability that Mexican men and women undertook an initial trip to the United States in the years from 1965 through 1985 (see figure 4.1). Following the procedures of Douglas Massey and Marcela Cerrutti (2001), we take all person-years observed in our sample during this period and follow individuals through life beginning at age fifteen. The denominator of our ratio is the number of men or women alive in a particular year who have never been to the United States, and the numerator is the number of those people who left on their first U.S. trip during the year in question. Probabilities are estimated separately for men and women and for those with and without documents. To smooth out irregularities stemming from sampling error and to clarify long-term trends, we follow Timothy Hatton and Jeffrey Williamson (1998) and express the yearly probabilities as three-year moving averages . The resulting figures are graphed in figure 4.1. Consistent with the data presented earlier, we see an escalation in the probability of undocumented migration among Mexican men after 1965. In this year the annual probability that a male age fifteen or older would leave on a first undocumented trip was just .007, but by 1975 it had reached .021, a threefold increase in only ten years. Although an annual probability of .021 may not seem like much, if sustained year after year it yields a rather significant cumulative probability of out-migration. For example, if one thousand men, starting at age fifteen, go through life subject to this annual risk of out-migration , roughly one-third of them will have left for the United States by age thirty-five. 54 Beyond Smoke and Mirrors Figure 4.1 Probability of a Mexican Taking a First U.S. Trip, 1965 to 1985 1985 1983 1981 1979 1977 1975 1973 1971 1969 1967 1965 0.03 0.025 0.02 0.015 0.01 0.005 0 Yearly Probability Undocumented Male Undocumented Female Documented Male Documented Female Year Source: Mexican Migration Project. Of course, the figure...


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