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Cliometric essays on Mexican migration to the United States

Escamilla-Guerrero, David (2019) Cliometric essays on Mexican migration to the United States. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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There is a lack of cliometric literature addressing the characteristics of Mexican migration during the Age of Mass migration (1850–1914). To fill this void, I analyze an original data set—the Mexican Border Crossing Records (MBCRs) publication N° A3365—to disentangle the initial mechanics of Mexican migration in the early twentieth century. I first offer a historical overview on Mexican migration to the United States in Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, I introduce these novel micro data that record individual characteristics of migrants that crossed the Mexico-US border from 1906 to 1908. In Chapter 3, I address the initial determinants of the Mexican-American migration stream. I use the migrant’s location of last residence and final destination to identify migration corridors at the local level (migration streams between Mexican municipalities and US counties). In addition, I provide a quantitative assessment of the push and pull factors that may explain differences in migration intensity across corridors. These factors include the US-Mexico wage gap, market potentials, living standards and access to railways. In Chapter 4, I use the migrant’s height—a proxy for physical productivity of labor—to quantify the selectivity of Mexican migration. In addition, I exploit the Panic of 1907 as a natural experiment of history to study the speed that migrant self-selection adjust and change to both environmental and economic factors. This financial crisis provides me with exogenous variation in height to evaluate if unexpected shocks affecting the demand of immigrant workers can induce short-run changes in migrant self-selection. To explain shifts in selection patterns, I focus on labor institutions as mechanism of adjustment. Specifically, I study the enganche, a system of labor recruiting that neutralized mobility and job-search costs. In Chapter 5, I exploit the reported locations of birth, last residence and destination to classify migrants based on their chosen migration method: direct or stage migration. The micro data reveal that forty percent of the migrants moved within Mexico before crossing the border. I estimate correlations between stage migration and potential wage at the destination controlling for the immigrants’ age, literacy, sex, marital status and birthplace. In Chapter 6, I offer some concluding remarks. My findings expand our knowledge about the initial patterns of Mexican migration using micro data not analyzed previously. They show that in the early twentieth century, the decision to migrate was a function of diverse forces, which effects and magnitudes varied across Mexican regions. Also, Mexican migration was characterized by an intermediate or positive selection, and labor institutions involved in the migration process shaped migrant self-selection. Finally, Mexicans used stage migration to reach the US border, and it was associated with a significant wage premium at the destination.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 David Escamilla-Guerrero
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Collections > Economists Online
Supervisor: Rosés, Joan and Schneider, Eric

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