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Demography, Emigration, and NAFTA -- Agustín Escobar and Philip Martin

Demography, Emigration, and NAFTA

Agustín Escobar, CIESAS Occidente, aescobar@udgserv.cencar.udg.mx

Philip Martin, UC Davis, martin@primal.ucdavis.edu

For presentation February 12, 2000

1. Factors Influencing Migration........................................................................................................................... 1

2. Migration Hump?............................................................................................................................................................. 1

3. Demography, Emigration, and NAFTA.................................................................................................................. 2

4. Policy Implications...................................................................................................................................................... 2

1. Factors Influencing Migration
We addressed the factors that influence migration for the US-Mexico Bi-National Study on Migration. Since 1980, migration has transferred about five percent of the Mexican-born population to the US. About 7 percent of the 105 million persons alive today who were born in Mexico live in the US, and another one to two percent of Mexican-born persons work seasonally in the US, meaning that 4 to 5 million Mexican-born workers are employed in the US labor market.

Mexico's population of almost 100 million is growing by 2 percent a year. About 300,000 Mexicans migrate to the US each year, equivalent to 15 percent of Mexico's population growth. Most arrive unlawfully, and US efforts to prevent such migration have made the Immigration and Naturalization Service one of the fastest-growing federal agencies, with an annual budget of $4.3 billion.

Mexico to US migration has a long history, and has become one of the most important linkages between the two most populous countries in North America, affecting employment patterns, demographic trends, regional dynamics, and politics in both countries. "Go north for opportunity" has become deeply embedded in Mexican youth, especially in the rural areas of west central Mexico.

We concluded that Mexico-US migration is a dynamic process. What began largely as the US-approved or US-tolerated recruitment of Mexican workers for seasonal US farm jobs a century ago has become a far more complex migration relationship that is moving rural Mexicans into traditional and non-traditional industries, occupations, and areas of the US. Over time, supply-push and network factors have come to play significant roles in continued Mexico-US migration.

2. Migration Hump?
We concluded that Mexico-US migration may peak early in the 21st century, and then fall for demographic and economic reasons. Mexico is undergoing rapid and substantial demographic change: the number of persons turning 15 is projected to drop by 50 percent between 1996 and 2010, from about 1 million a year to 500,000 a year. Declining fertility reduces migration directly, with fewer people, and indirectly, because households with fewer children tend to keep them in school longer, reducing the need for jobs for young people entering the labor market, and reducing the probability of emigration.

The ratio between economic and job growth in Mexico is estimated by the IMF to be 2 to 1, which means that 5 percent annual economic growth is associated with 2.5 percent job growth, or 750,000 new jobs a year (the actual ratio was 1.35 between 1988 and 1995). If economic and job growth continues at current rates, the gap between jobs created and jobs needed should close by 2005, reducing emigration pressure.

3. Demography, Emigration, and NAFTA
Fertility began to fall rapidly in Mexico in the 1970s, but the fertility decline was slower in the states that sent the most migrants to the US. Today, migrants come to the US from three types of Mexican states:

1. Mexican border states with lower-than-average fertility but higher than average rates of population growth because of internal migration.

2. Traditional emigration states with above average incomes and average fertility rates that used to send migrants to Mexico City and Guadalajara, but redirected many migrants to the border states and the US after economic crises in the 1980s and 1990s.

3. New sending states in southern Mexico that include large numbers of peasant and indigenous residents—fertility is declining slowly and unevenly in these states.

In one traditional emigration village in Michoacan, we found that families

migrating to large Mexican cities had the most rapid fertility declines, faster than families that sent migrants to the US; they reduced their fertility at about average rates. These fertility declines, which were sharpest in the late 1980s, will have consequences for US migration by 2005, assuming that urban Mexican labor markets can continue to absorb rural-urban migrants. We hope to extend the analysis to communities in the new sending states in southern Mexico.

Many of the rural areas in which fertility has fallen slowest and most unevenly are experiencing an economic crisis. There are between three and four million corn farmers in Mexico; many support families that include four or five children on milpas, or small corn farms, and supplement their income in a variety of ways, including remittances from migration. NAFTA liberalized corn imports and lowered corn prices, helping consumers and saving the government some of the money that was spent to support the price of corn, but accelerating the flight from the land.

Changing fertility interacts with economic trends to influence internal and international migration. For example, NAFTA has accelerated the expansion of maquiladoras, promoting internal migration to Mexican border states. In August 1999 there were 3,333 maquiladoras with 1.1 million employees, an average of 320 a firm, and maquiladora employment is expected to increase at a rate of 125,000 jobs a year. About 78 percent of maquiladoras are in the Mexican states bordering the US--25 percent of maquiladora employment is in Chihuahua (Juarez) and 20 percent is in Baja California (Tijuana). However, maquiladora wages fell about 11 percent in real terms between 1994 and 1998, and have not yet recovered— workers received an average of 702 pesos ($75) a month in 1999.

4. Policy Implications
If Mexico-US migration declines for demographic and economic reasons about the time that the INS completes its border build up, the very expensive addition of Border Patrol agents, fences, and other control measures may be credited for what family planning and job growth in fact accomplished.