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Unauthorized Migrants in the United States: Estimates, Methods, and Characteristics


  • Jeffrey Passel

    (Pew Hispanic Center, Whashington DC)


This report discusses methods of measuring unauthorized migration to the United States. The “residual method” involves comparing an analytic estimate of the legal foreign-born population with a survey-based measure of the total foreign-born population. The difference between the two population figures is a measure of the unauthorized migrant population in the survey; it can then be corrected for omissions to provide a measure of the total unauthorized population. The report includes a detailed description of the residual methods and the underlying data and assumptions as it has been applied to recent data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and decennial censuses. The paper presents new results of estimates derived from the march 2006 CPS which show that the unauthorized population in the U.S. has reached 11.5 million; of these, 6.5 million or 57% are from Mexico. The report also presents derived data on a range of social and economic characteristics of the unauthorized population developed with an extension of the residual estimates. Finally, historical data on trends in unauthorized migration and several alternative estimation methods are presented and discussed. Ce document traite de l’analyse des méthodes employées aux Etats-Unis pour mesurer les migrations irrégulières. La méthode résiduelle consiste à comparer les estimations de la population née à l’étranger et résidant légalement aux Etats-Unis avec les enquêtes visant à mesurer l’ensemble de la population née à l’étranger. La différence entre les deux catégories de population permet d’évaluer la population immigrée en situation irrégulière. Il est possible de corriger cette évaluation pour tenir compte de certaines omissions et obtenir ainsi une évaluation de la population en situation irrégulière. Le document présente de manière détaillée les méthodes résiduelles, les données et les hypothèses qui ont été utilisées en s’appuyant sur les données provenant du Current Population Survey (CFS) et des recensements décennaux de population. Sur la base des résultats du CPS 2006, la population en situation irrégulière aux Etats-Unis atteindrait 11.5 millions de personnes, dont 6.5 millions de Mexicains (soit 57 %). Le document contient aussi des informations sur les caractéristiques sociales et économiques de la population en situation irrégulière. Enfin, des séries historiques sur l’évolution des migrations irrégulières aux Etats-Unis ainsi que sur les différentes méthodes de leur estimation font l’objet d’une présentation critique.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey Passel, 2007. "Unauthorized Migrants in the United States: Estimates, Methods, and Characteristics," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 57, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:57-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Luigi M. Solivetti, 2016. "Crime Patterns between Tradition and Change: A Territorial Analysis of the Italian Provinces," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(2), pages 531-558, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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