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Return Migration to Mexico: Does Health Matter?

Abstract

We use data from three rounds of the Mexican Family Life Survey to examine whether migrants in the United States returning to Mexico in the period 2005–2012 have worse health than those remaining in the United States. Despite extensive interest by demographers in health-related selection, this has been a neglected area of study in the literature on U.S.-Mexico migration, and the few results to date have been contradictory and inconclusive. Using five self-reported health variables collected while migrants resided in the United States and subsequent migration history, we find direct evidence of higher probabilities of return migration for Mexican migrants in poor health as well as lower probabilities of return for migrants with improving health. These findings are robust to the inclusion of potential confounders reflecting the migrants’ demographic characteristics, economic situation, family ties, and origin and destination characteristics. We anticipate that in the coming decade, health may become an even more salient issue in migrants’ decisions about returning to Mexico, given the recent expansion in access to health insurance in Mexico.

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Notes

  1. Two percent of the analytic sample reports children in both places.

  2. As much as one-third of return migration during this period may be due to deportation (Passel et al. 2012).

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this project from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD051764, P2CHD047879, R24HD041022, and RH01HD047522) and from the National Institute on Aging (R01AG030668-04). They also thank Graham Lord and Diana Sacké for their assistance.

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Correspondence to Noreen Goldman.

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Arenas, E., Goldman, N., Pebley, A.R. et al. Return Migration to Mexico: Does Health Matter?. Demography 52, 1853–1868 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0429-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0429-7

Keywords

  • Return migration
  • Selection
  • Salmon bias
  • Health-related emigration
  • Mexico