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Abstract

In the 1990s, Mexican immigration dispersed spatially, leading to the emergence of many “new destinations,” in nonmetropolitan areas of the United States. Previous studies constrain the scope of the analysis to the United States, limiting our understanding of how new destinations are formed. We place new destination formation into a binational context and emphasize the role of supply-side immigration dynamics. We argue that occupations in Mexico provide ready-made paths, or “channels,” for economic incorporation into the United States and that these channels underlie the formation of many new destinations. Using a unique data set on Mexican migration, we estimate a multivariate model that tests for the presence of occupational channels linking analogous sectors of the U.S. and Mexican economies, focusing especially on the food-processing sector. The results demonstrate that Mexican migration is strongly channeled along occupational lines. There are occupational channels linking each of the major economic sectors in Mexico and the United States, but the effect of channeling is particularly strong in the food-processing sector. By empirically identifying the existence of occupational channels, this study uncovers a key explanation of new destination formation in many nonmetropolitan areas.