Pathways to El Norte: Origins, Destinations, and Characteristics of Mexican Migrants to the United States


  •  We thank Luis Felipe Ramos Martínez and Jorge Valencia for guidance with the use of the ENADID data and Nancy D. Mann for her careful editing and suggestions. We acknowledge administrative and computing support from the NICHD-funded University of Colorado Population Center (grant R21 HD51146).


The geography Mexican migration to the U.S. has experienced deep transformations in both its origin composition and the destinations chosen by migrants. To date, however, we know little about how shifting migrant origins and destinations may be linked to each another geographically and, ultimately, structurally as relatively similar brands of economic restructuring have been posited to drive the shifts in origins and destinations. In this paper, we describe how old and new migrant networks have combined to fuel the well-documented geographic expansion of Mexican migration. We use data from the 2006 Mexican National Survey of Population Dynamics, a nationally representative survey that for the first time collected information on U.S. state of destination for all household members who had been to the U.S. during the 5 years prior to the survey. We find that the growth in immigration to southern and eastern states is disproportionately fueled by undocumented migration from non-traditional origin regions located in Central and Southeastern Mexico and from rural areas in particular. We argue that economic restructuring in the U.S. and Mexico had profound consequences not only for the magnitude but also for the geography of Mexican migration, opening up new region-to-region flows.