U.S. Border Enforcement and the Net Flow of Mexican Illegal Migration


I investigate the effect of U.S. border enforcement on the net flow of Mexican undocumented migration, both of which have been considerably increasing in the last three decades. This effect is theoretically ambiguous, as increases in border controls deter prospective migrants from crossing the border illegally but lengthen the duration of current illegal migrations. The inflow and outflow of illegal Mexican migration respond to changes in border enforcement. The marginal effect of enforcement on the inflow increases with enforcement and is consistent with the hypothesis that tighter enforcement selects more productive migrants. This positive selection makes the outflow sensitivity to marginal enforcement changes comparatively more stable over time. A marginal increase in border controls increases the stock of undocumented migrants between 1972 and 1986, has either no effect or a small and negative effect between 1987 and 1996, and has a larger and significant negative effect between 1997 and 2003.

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20 Figures and Tables

Showing 1-10 of 38 references

Illegal immigration, border enforcement and relative wages: evidence from apprehensions at the US-Mexico border

  • Spilimbergo
  • 1999
Highly Influential
5 Excerpts

The Great Mexican Emigration

  • G Hanson, Mcintosh
  • 2007

Effects of Enforcement on Illegal Markets: Evidence from Migrant Smuggling along the Southwestern Border

  • C Gathmann
  • 2006

Illegal migration from Mexico to the United States

  • G Hanson
  • 2006

International Migration, Self-Selection, and the Distribution of Wages: Evidence from Mexico and the United States

  • D Chiquiar, G Hanson
  • 2006

Mexican Migration Project

  • 2006

The Effects of Border Enforcement on Migrants' Border Crossing Choices: Diversion, or Deterrence?

  • C Carrion-Flores, T Sorensen
  • 2006
1 Excerpt

Dangerous desert, breached border

  • 2005

Self-Selection among Undocumented Immigrants from Mexico

  • Pia M Orrenius, Madeline Zavodny
  • 2005
1 Excerpt