Indigenous Places and the Making of Undocumented Status in Mexico-U.S. Migration


The uneven distribution of economic and social resources across communities often falls along ethno-racial dimensions. Few demographers have considered whether such axes of place stratification in a migrant-sending country bear on individuals’ access to economic and social resources in a migrant-receiving country. Taking Mexico-United States migration flows as our focus, we examine if having origins in an indigenous place, a primary axis of stratification in Mexico, conditions migrants’ documentation status when crossing the border, a primary dimension of inequality in the United States. We rely on individual-level data from the Mexican Migration Project merged with municipal-level data from the Mexican Census. We find using multilevel models that migrants from communities in indigenous municipalities in Mexico are more likely to migrate undocumented than documented to the United States compared with those from non-indigenous municipalities, net of the economic and social resources identified in prior work as useful for international movement. We discuss why indigenous places—marked by a set of correlated conditions of economic and social disadvantage—channel migrants into an undocumented status. This study contributes to our understanding of stratification processes in cross-border contexts and has implications for the production of inequality in the United States.

Last updated on 05/08/2018