Aging and the Hidden Costs of Going Home to Mexico


Data from the Mexican Census reveal that between 2005 and 2015, nearly two million migrants returned voluntarily to Mexico from the United States. Currently, high rates of voluntary-return migration to Mexico continue at the same time that migration flows to the U.S. steadily decline. This return migration trend presents serious challenges for Mexico, a country that has long struggled to satisfy the health care demands of its population. However, little is known about return migrants’ health care needs. In this study, we examine the health risk profiles and healthcare utilization for Mexican return migrants and the non-migrant population. We examine how these outcomes are affected by both the migration and return migration experience of the returnee population, while paying close attention to age-group differences. We employ inverse probability weighting regression adjustment (IPWRA) and logistic regression analysis of a sample of 348,450 respondents from the 2014 National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID) to test for differences in health conditions between those Mexican return migrants and non-migrants. We then turn to the Survey of Migration at Mexico’s Northern Border (EMIF Norte, for its Spanish acronym) for the 2014–2017 period to further assess whether certain characteristics linked to aging and the migration experience influence the prevalence of chronic health conditions, and health insurance coverage among 17,258 returned migrants. Findings reveal that compared to non-migrants, returnees are more likely to be physically impaired. These poor health outcomes are influenced by the migration and return migration experience and vary by age group and duration of residence, the time that has elapsed since returning to Mexico. We do not find an association between return migration and mental or emotional distress. Policy implications are discussed in light of immigration reform and restrictions on eligibility for health insurance coverage for older adults in Mexico.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    The ENADID asks respondents that reported having migrated to the U.S. the following two questions: Five years ago, in August 2009, in what state of the Mexican republic or country did you live? A year ago, in August 2013, in what state of the Mexican republic or country did you live?

  2. 2.

    Health insurance coverage in the U.S. is defined as having access to any of the following: private health insurance, employer provided health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, Medical Assistance, TRICARE or any other health insurance plan.


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Jacqueline Angel has received research support for this study from the UT-Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs Policy Research Institute International Program. Ana Canedo received a travel grant from the NIH/National Institute on Aging #AG029767 to present an earlier version of the paper.

This research was supported by grant, P2CHD042849, Population Research Center, awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Ana P. Canedo or Jaqueline L. Angel.

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Canedo, A.P., Angel, J.L. Aging and the Hidden Costs of Going Home to Mexico. J Cross Cult Gerontol 34, 417–437 (2019).

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  • Return migration
  • Aging
  • Mexico
  • Health
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Health insurance coverage