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Border Enforcement and Selection of Mexican Immigrants in the United States


Author Info

  • Lozano, Fernando A.

    (Pomona College)

  • Lopez, Mary J.

    (Occidental College)


Since 1986 the United States has made considerable efforts to curb illegal immigration. This has resulted in an increase in migration costs for undocumented immigrants. More stringent border enforcement either deters potential illegal immigrants from coming to the U.S., or moves the point of crossing for illegal immigrants from traditional crossing routes to more inhospitable routes. These changes are likely to place a heavier burden on illegal immigrant women as they are more likely to be kidnapped, smuggled, or raped when crossing illegally. If migration costs are not the same for all migrants, higher migrating costs may result in a change in the number and in the composition of immigrants to the United States. In the face of higher migration costs, only immigrants with relatively high expected benefits of migration will choose to migrate. Based on our theoretical model, we test for three empirical results that are associated with a stronger selection of immigrant women from Mexico relative to men as a result of higher migration costs: 1) A decrease in the relative flow of older and highly educated undocumented immigrant women relative to men; 2) A change in the skill composition of immigrant women to men; and 3) An increase in the average earnings of those groups most affected by increased migration costs. Using data from the 1990, 2000 Decennial Census, and from the 2006-2008 American Community Survey we empirically confirm these predictions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4898.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Feminist Economics, 2013, 19 (1), 76-110
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4898

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Keywords: immigration; gender; selection; border enforcement;

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  1. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A, 1993. "Immigrant Selectivity and Wages: The Evidence for Women," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 986-93, September.
  2. Oded Stark & J. Taylor, 1989. "Relative deprivation and international migration oded stark," Demography, Springer, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 1-14, February.
  3. Claudia Olivetti & Barbara Petrongolo, 2005. "Unequal pay or unequal employment? A cross-country analysis of gender gaps," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series, Boston University - Department of Economics WP2005-008, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  4. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2007. "Gender and Assimilation Among Mexican Americans," NBER Chapters, in: Mexican Immigration to the United States, pages 57-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gilbert,Christopher L. & Vines,David (ed.), 2006. "The World Bank," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521029018.
  6. Markus Mobius & Raphael Schoenle, 2006. "The Evolution of Work," Working Papers, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School 25, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
  7. Catherine J. Weinberger & Peter J. Kuhn, 2010. "Changing Levels or Changing Slopes? The Narrowing of the U.S. Gender Earnings Gap, 1959-1999," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(3), pages 384-406, April.
  8. Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States," NBER Working Papers 12141, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Bohn, Sarah & Pugatch, Todd, 2013. "U.S. Border Enforcement and Mexican Immigrant Location Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 7842, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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