Changes in trip duration for Mexican immigrants to the United
BELINDA I. REYES
Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA
Abstract. Using the Mexican Migration Project sample, this paper explores the patterns
of trip duration for Mexican immigrants to the United States and the reasons for the
patterns observed. I found that the most important factors leading to changes in trip
duration are US immigration policy, the conditions of the Mexican economy, and the
development of social networks. It appears that the legalization of many immigrants
after passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act encouraged short-term
migration, but the build-up at the US-Mexico border may have changed this pattern
leading to longer duration in the United States. Furthermore, changes in the exchange
rate, a devaluation of the peso relative to the dollar, for example, leads to more return
migration, as immigrants are able to get more value for his dollars in Mexico. On the
other hand, an expansion of networks and resources for immigrants in the United States
leads to longer duration in the United States.
Mexican migration has been characterized by its temporary nature
(Bean et al. 1987; Calavita 1994; Cornelius 1976; Hugo 1982; Jenkins
1977; Jones 1982; Kossoudji 1983; Massey et al. 1987; Mines & de
Janvry 1982; Ranney & Reyes 2001; Roberts 1995; White et al. 1990).
Although not all immigrants move temporarily, most of the Mexican
immigrants who enter the United States have been found to return to
Mexico after a few months or years (Durand & Massey 1992; Lopez
1986; Massey & Singer 1995, Massey et al. 1987, 1994; Mines 1981;
Reicher & Massey 1979). In recent years, however, the overall pattern of
trip duration may have changed. Community studies ﬁnd increases in
trip duration and more settlement in the United States (Alarco
b; Cornelius 2002), while quantitative studies ﬁnd a shortening in trip
duration after the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act
(IRCA) (Durand et al. 2000).
While there is an extensive literature exploring the determinants of
trip duration (e.g., Lindstrom 1996; Massey & Espinosa 1997; Reyes
Population Research and Policy Review 23: 235–257, 2004.
Ó 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.