Slowing of Mexican Migration to U.S. Just Temporary, Bank Says

Aug 5, 2011

MEXICO CITY – The recent reduction in the flow of Mexican emigrants to the United States is a temporary phenomenon attributable to the recession and tougher U.S. policies toward the undocumented, according to a report released Wednesday by BBVA bank.

“Historically, immigration to the United States declines after economic recessions,” analysts with the Mexican unit of the Spanish banking giant said.

That correlation can be observed in the downturns of 1873, 1882, 1914, 1923, 1929, 1991, 2001 and 2007, BBVA’s Juan Luis Ordaz said.

The New York Times recently cited a study by Princeton University and the Pew Research Center which found that Mexicans’ interest in emigrating to the United States is at its lowest level since 1950.

Widely picked up in the Mexican media, the Times article explained the fading attractions of emigration in terms of improved economic and educational opportunities in Mexico, as well as a tendency among Mexicans to have smaller families.

BBVA, however, said the pay gap separating Mexico and the United States remains large enough to spur Mexicans to head north.

“In the short term, the migratory flows will continue to be weak, but in the medium- and long-term they will take on greater dynamism, driven by the economic recovery in the United States and the demand for immigrant labor as a result of the aging of the population,” the bank said.

The key variable in determining the volume of Mexican emigration to the United States is the U.S. jobs picture, independent of the economic situation in Mexico, the BBVA analysts concluded.

Though Mexican unemployment was on the increase in the early 1990s, the number of people leaving for the United States – where the jobless rate was also elevated – actually declined.

“From 1996 to 2000, unemployment in Mexico maintained a downward trajectory; in the same years emigration did not cease and on the contrary, presented an opposite tendency,” the BBVA study pointed out.

While some 650,000 Mexicans moved to the United States in 2006, the number fell to around 200,000 last year, according to figures cited by the bank.

Mexicans are thought to represent the majority of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Remittances from those migrants constitute Mexico’s No. 2 source of revenue after oil exports.