Mexican migration to U.S. metropolitan destinations: the significance of cumulative causation processes

James D. Bachmeier, University of California, Irvine
Frank D. Bean, University of California, Irvine

This paper examines the size and nature of Mexican migration flows to U.S. metropolitan areas. We apply and extend cumulative causation theory – which invokes network-based social capital to explain place-specific variation in the probability of Mexican migration to the United States – to develop hypotheses about migration to destinations instead of from origins. Focusing on recent Mexican flows to areas throughout the United States, and consistent with the hypotheses implied by the destination-oriented theory, we find that the prevalence of previous migrants and the maturity of the co-ethnic community in U.S. destinations independently accounts for a substantial portion of inter-metropolitan variation in the size and gender composition of migration flows compared to other factors. Moreover, prevalence positively relates to the volume of flows, meaning that migration induces ever additional exogenous numbers of migrants. The results indicate that this in turn generates Mexican out-migration from metropolitan destinations to other destinations.

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Presented in Session 89: New data and methods for studying international migration and transnational networks