Pathways to El Norte: Origins, destinations, and characteristics of Mexican migrants to the United States

Fernando Riosmena, Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


The geography Mexican migration to the U.S. has experienced deep transformations in both its origin composition and the destinations chosen by migrants. To date, however, we know little about how shifting migrant origins and destinations may be linked to each another geographically and, ultimately, structurally as relatively similar brands of economic restructuring have been posited to drive the shifts in origins and destinations. In this paper, we describe how old and new migrant networks have combined to fuel the well-documented geographic expansion of Mexican migration. We use data from the 2006 Mexican National Survey of Population Dynamics, a nationally representative survey that for the first time collected information on U.S. state of destination for all household members who had been to the U.S. during the 5 years prior to the survey. We find that the growth in immigration to southern and eastern states is disproportionately fueled by undocumented migration from non-traditional origin regions located in Central and Southeastern Mexico and from rural areas in particular. We argue that economic restructuring in the U.S. and Mexico had profound consequences not only for the magnitude but also for the geography of Mexican migration, opening up new region-to-region flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-36
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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