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Initial determinants of Mexican mass migration

Media coverage: The Long Run


In the beginnings of the Age of Mass Migration (1850-1920), 300 thousand Europeans migrated to New World destinations every year. In the last decade of that period, a new episode of mass migration started from Mexico to the United States. Between 60 to 100 thousand Mexican laborers crossed the border in 1908. This figure remains at similar levels today, making the Mexico-US migration the most intense and persistent labor migration of the twentieth century. While there is extensive literature addressing the Mexico-US migration in recent times, our knowledge about its initial characteristics is still limited. Exploiting novel micro data consisting of individual border crossings from 1906 to 1908, this paper addresses the initial determinants of Mexican emigration at the local level. First, I estimate gross emigration between Mexican municipalities and US counties, obtaining 892 migration corridors or municipality-county pairs. Second, I evaluate diverse push and pull factors that may explain differences in size across migration corridors. The findings suggest that differences in market potentials and Mexican immigrant networks in the United States were the main pull factors rather than the US-Mexico wage gap. Differences in living standards within Mexico were the main push factor. Despite their importance for the Mexican economy, railways had a limited effect on the emigration decision at the beginning of the Mexico-United States mass migration.


Identification strategy for the effect of railways on migration.

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