Local Economic Opportunity and the Competing Risks of Internal and U.S. Migration in Zacatecas, Mexico1


  • 1

    Previous drafts of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco, in August 1998 and at the Seminar on International Migration at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, Mexico, in June 1999. I would like to thank researchers at the University of Zacatecas for providing the raw data files from the Zacatecas Migration Survey. This research was made possible through support from NICHD Grant HD36700–02 and a Small Grants Program Award and Salomon Faculty Research Award from Brown University.


This article uses a competing risks model to examine the effects of origin economic conditions on the probability of temporary U.S. and internal labor migration in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. We measure origin economic conditions with municipal-level indices of employment and small-scale investment opportunities that we constructed from population and economic census data. The results of our analysis demonstrate the important influence of local employment and investment opportunities on migration outcomes. Controlling for the prior municipal rate of U.S. return migration and other factors, positive opportunities for small-scale investment are associated with a higher risk of temporary migration to the United States. This result is consistent with investment oriented migration predicted by the new economics of labor migration theory. We also find comparable social network effects for both internal and U.S. migration. Having social ties to active migrants of one type (U.S. or internal), encourages migration of the same type and discourages migration of the other type.