Why Such An Increase In Immigration?

The Wall Street Journal has another econoblog debate and this time the topic is immigration.

Gordon Hanson, professor of economics at UCSD, answers why there has been such a drastic increase in Mexican immigration:

Mexican immigrants now account for about 5% of the U.S. labor force (and 35% of the immigrant labor force), up from less than 1% in 1970. What happened?

I would cite two events. Since 1982, Mexico has had several major economic contractions and has been unable to string together more than a few years of solid growth. As a result, per capita income in Mexico has steadily fallen relative to per capita income in the U.S. Why stay in Mexico when incomes are rising faster in the U.S.?

Compounding migration pressures has been the entry of Mexico’s baby boom into the labor force. While fertility rates in Mexico have dropped sharply in the last three decades (from five kids per woman in 1970 to three kids per woman in 2000), it wasn’t that long ago that the typical Mexican woman had nearly a half dozen children. Mexico’s high fertility years produced a demographic bulge, the members of which in the last 20 years have come of age and started to look for work. As luck would have it, Mexico’s baby boom entered the labor force during Mexico’s two decades of dismal economic performance and decidedly lackluster growth in labor demand. The result has been the surge in Mexican immigration that we have been witnessing.

The full debate can be found here.

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