The culture of Mexican Migration: A theoretical and empirical analysis

William Kandel, Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

412 Scopus citations


Many field investigators have observed the evolution ora "culture of migration" in certain Mexican communities characterized by a high rate of out-migration to the U.S. Within such communities, international migration becomes so deeply rooted that the prospect of transnational movement becomes normative: young people "expect" to live and work in the U.S. at some point in their lives. Males, especially, come to see migration as a normal part of the life course, representing a marker of the transition to manhood, in addition to being a widely accepted vehicle for economic mobility. International migration is cultural in the sense that the aspiration to migrate is transmitted across generations and between people through social networks. In this article, we develop a formal theory of the culture of migration and test it using a special data set collected by the first author as well as data from the Mexican Migration Project. We show that children from families involved in U.S. migration are more likely to aspire to live and work in the U.S. and that these aspirations, in turn, influence their behavior, lowering the odds that they will continue in school, and raising the odds of their eventual out-migration to the U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-1004
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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