Mexican Migrant Integration in the United States, 1965–2015

Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
ANNALS, AAPSS, 684, July 2019 85
DOI: 10.1177/0002716219856878
Integration in
the United
856878ANN The Annals of The American AcademyMexican Migrant Integration in the United States
This article uses 20 years of survey data from the
Mexican Migration Project to describe how the experi-
ences of Mexico-U.S. migrants have changed over time.
I use survey questions about migrants’ experiences on
their last U.S. trip to develop composite indices of six
integration domains, and then estimate random inter-
cept linear regression models with individual-, family-,
and community-level characteristics to explain varia-
tions in Mexican migrant integration. I find that, over
time, Mexican migrant linguistic and social integration
has steadily increased, whereas integration in other
family and economic domains changed little or not at
all. Results from the multivariate models show the
importance of human capital to integration across the
multiple domains. Higher education, more time spent
in the country of destination, and being male are all
strongly associated with higher levels of integration. I
also find evidence that both family and community
migration networks facilitate integration.
Keywords: immigration; integration; assimilation;
Mexico; U.S.
Mexican migration to the United States has
evolved over the last 75 years from a cir-
cular flow of predominantly men working in
seasonal agriculture and other low-skilled occu-
pations to a diverse population of temporary
migrant men working alongside long-term and
settled immigrant men, women, and families
(Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002; Riosmena
and Massey 2012). Numerically, the number of
Mexican-born persons in the United States has
grown from 0.5 million in 1950 to approxi-
mately 11.5 million in 2013 (Lowell, Perderzini,
David P. Lindstrom is a professor of sociology and a
faculty associate of the Population Studies and Training
Center, Brown University. His research examines
the determinants and consequences of migration in
economically developing societies, the transition into
adulthood, and the changing dynamics of reproductive
health and behavior.
and Passel 2006, 2; López 2015, 1). While there is a growing literature on the
trajectories of settled immigrants and their children with respect to economic
status (Connor and Massey 2010; Hall, Greenman, and Farkas 2010), educational
attainment (Baum and Flores 2011; Portes and Rivas 2011; Rumbaut and
Komaie 2010; Suarez-Orozco etal. 2011), and health (Singh, Rodriguez-Lainz,
and Kogan 2013), little is known about the daily experiences and social interac-
tions of recent arrivals, long-term migrants, and returned migrants in Mexico,
and how their incorporation into U.S. society has changed over time.
Anti-immigrant policies and movements at local and national levels affect all
Mexican migrants in the United States (see Butz and Kehrberg 2016; Jaret 1999;
Muste 2013; Wilson 2000; Ybarra, Sanchez, and Sanchez 2016), yet little is
known about how rising nativism is affecting the incorporation of recent migrants
(Salas, Ayón, and Gurrola 2013). In this study, I use 20 years of survey data from
the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) to follow trends over time in a dataset that
includes the experiences of long-term, settled, and returned Mexico-U.S.
migrants. I use questions about migrants’ experiences on their last U.S. trip to
develop composite indices of six integration domains (linguistic, social, family,
employment, financial, and assets), and then estimate random intercept linear
regression models with individual-, family-, and community-level characteristics
to explain cross-sectional and longitudinal variation in Mexican migrant integra-
tion. The MMP is one of the few, if not the only, data sources for studying the
integration experiences of recently arrived, long-term, and settled Mexico-U.S.
migrants alongside returned migrants. Migrant integration experiences likely
shape subsequent decisions about settlement versus return and the migration of
other family members. Understanding the trend in Mexican migrant experiences
over the last five decades offers insights into potential future trends.
Immigration is transforming the demographic and ethnic profile of many high-
income countries. In the United States, Canada, and most of Europe, immigrants
constitute 10 to 20 percent of the national populations (United Nations 2017).
Young immigrants and the children of immigrants often constitute an even larger
proportion of the youth populations in these countries. The successful integration
of immigrants and their children is a major policy concern in host countries
(Kurthen and Heisler 2009). The human capital that immigrants possess, the
conditions under which they arrive, and the degree to which they become lin-
guistically and socially integrated impact processes of labor market insertion and
wage determination (Connor and Massey 2010; Hall, Greenman and Farkas
2010), health outcomes (Singh, Rodriguez-Lainz, and Kogan 2013), and, most
importantly for the future, the educational success of their children (Baum and
Flores 2011; Crosnoe 2005; Portes and Rivas 2011, Suárez et al. 2011). How
immigrants become a part of the host society has repercussions not only for the
immigrant generation and their children, but for the host society as well.

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