More Mexican Immigrants are Leaving the US than Are Coming In

From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico, according to the latest data from the Pew Research Report by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera of the Pew Research Center. The report captures trends in recent migration flows between Mexico and the United States. One of the most interesting findings is evidence collected that explains why Mexican immigrants are leaving the US and returning to their home country.

These new findings are based on Pew Research Center estimates using U.S. Census Bureau surveys to measure inflow of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. and the National Survey on Demographic Dynamics (ENADID) from Mexico’s chief statistical agency (INEGI), which measures the number of Mexican immigrants who have moved back to Mexico after living in the U.S. between 2009 and 2014.

Net Migration from Mexico

The Decline in the flow of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. is due to several reasons, including:

  1. The slow recovery of the U.S. economy
  2. Stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  3.  Increased enforcement in the U.S. has led to an increase in the number of Mexican immigrants who have been deported from the U.S. since 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2014.


Mexican Unauthorized Immigration Population Declines


Leaving of Their Own Accord

A majority of the 1 million who left the U.S. for Mexico between 2009 and 2014 left of their own accord, according to the Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID).

  1. Reuniting With Family Primary Reason for Return Migration to Mexico

From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. to move to Mexico.

  1. 61% of Mexicans who in 2009 were living in the U.S. and by 2014 returned to Mexico said they had moved back either to reunite with family or to start a family.
  2. 14% said they had been deported from the U.S.,
  3. 6% gave employment reasons (either to look for a job or because they found a job in Mexico).
  4. Lack of work in the U.S. was a more important reason for the 180,000 return migrants who lived in Mexico in 2009, left for the U.S. after that, and came back to Mexico between 2009 and 2014.
  5. 25% of recent returnees said the main reason was their inability to find a job,

Mexicans Views of Life North of the Border:

  1. 48% of adults in Mexico believe life is better in the U.S.
  2. A growing number says it is neither better nor worse than life in Mexico.
  3. 33% of adults in Mexico say those who move to the U.S. lead a life that is equivalent to that in Mexico.
  4. Asked about their willingness to migrate to the U.S., 35% say they would move to the U.S. if they had the opportunity and means to do so.
  5.  20% of adults in Mexico would do so without authorization.

Is Mexico Still the Largest Source of New Immigrants to the U.S.?

Immigration from China and India to the U.S. has increased steadily, while immigration from Mexico has declined sharply.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that China overtook Mexico in 2013 as the leading country for new immigrant.

The net flow from Mexico to the U.S. is now negative, as return migration of Mexican nationals and their children is now higher than migration of Mexicans heading to the U.S.

Who is Returning? Among the 1 million migrants returning to Mexico from the U.S.:

  1. 720,000 who had been residing in the U.S. in 2009 and were living in Mexico in 2014.
  2.  180,000 were recent migrants who were living in Mexico in 2009 but left for the U.S. and came back to Mexico between 2009 and 2014.
  3. 100,000 were children under the age of 5 who had been born in the U.S. and were living in Mexico in 2014.

Number of Undocumented Mexican Immigrants Declines

The drop in the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants reflects tougher enforcement at the southwest border.

  • In 2013, deportations of Mexican immigrants reached a record high of nearly 315,000, an increase of 86% since 2005, when a policy shift made it more likely that Mexican border crossers would get deported, be barred from legal re-entry for a number of years and risk criminal prosecution if entering illegally again in the future.
  •  In 2014, the number of Mexican immigrants apprehended at the southwest border of the U.S. dropped to about 227,000.
  •  In contrast, the number of apprehensions of non-Mexican immigrants, mostly from Central America, reached a peak at close to 253,000. This was the first time on record that Border Patrol apprehended more non-Mexican immigrants than Mexican immigrants at the southwest border.
  • Today, undocumented Mexican immigrants make up a lower share (48%) of the Mexican-born population living in the U.S. compared with their peak in 2007 (54%).

Mexican Immigrants Then and Now


Compared with 1990, Mexican immigrants in 2013 were considerably older (median age of 39 vs. 29), better educated (42% with high school diploma or more vs. 24%) and had been in the U.S. for longer (77% had been in the U.S. for more than a decade, compared with 50%).


Economically, Mexican immigrants both gained and lost ground. While median personal earnings increased about $2,700 since 1990 (in 2013 dollars), the median household income of Mexican immigrants dropped by about $1,700 in the same period. This reflects the effects of the Great Recession in the U.S. and the slow recovery.

Prospect of Life in the US

For those in Mexico, life in the U.S. is not necessarily better. Yet half of all adults in Mexico think those who have moved to the U.S. lead better lives than those left behind. An increasing number (33%) says life is neither better nor worse in the U.S. Only 14% of Mexicans believe life in the U.S. is worse than in Mexico for those who migrate.

Follow the link for the complete report. Pew Research Center, November, 2015, “More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the US.” Washington, D.C.: November.





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