Demography

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Measuring Geographic Migration Patterns Using Matrículas Consulares

  • Maria Esther Caballero
  • Brian C. Cadena
  • Brian K. Kovak
Article

Abstract

In this article, we show how to use administrative data from the Matrícula Consular de Alta Seguridad (MCAS) identification card program to measure the joint distribution of sending and receiving locations for migrants from Mexico to the United States. Whereas other data sources cover only a small fraction of source or destination locations or include only very coarse geographic information, the MCAS data provide complete geographic coverage of both countries, detailed information on migrants’ sources and destinations, and a very large sample size. We first confirm the quality and representativeness of the MCAS data by comparing them with well-known household surveys in Mexico and the United States, finding strong agreement on the migrant location distributions available across data sets. We then document substantial differences in the mix of destinations for migrants from different places within the same source state, demonstrating the importance of detailed substate geographical information. We conclude with an example of how these detailed data can be used to study the effects of destination-specific conditions on migration patterns. We find that an Arizona law reducing employment opportunities for unauthorized migrants decreased emigration from and increased return migration to Mexican source regions with strong initial ties to Arizona.

Keywords

International migration Immigration law Mexico United States 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This project was supported by a grant from the Berkman Faculty Development Fund at Carnegie Mellon University. This research has benefited from research, administrative, and computing support provided by the University of Colorado Population Center (CUPC; Project 2P2CHD066613-06), funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of CUPC or NICHD. The authors would like to thank Alexandra Chouldechova, Terra McKinnish, Fernando Riosmena, and Lowell Taylor, and participants at the 2017 Population Association of America Annual Meeting and the University of Oxford Workshop on Immigration, Health, and Well-Being for helpful comments. Benjamin Mayer provided excellent research assistance. Special thanks to Edith Soto Ramírez at the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior for extensive discussions regarding the Matrícula Consular de Alta Seguridad data. Remaining errors are our own.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Esther Caballero
    • 1
  • Brian C. Cadena
    • 2
    • 3
  • Brian K. Kovak
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Carnegie MellonHeinz CollegePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)BonnGermany
  4. 4.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA

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