TREND: Mexico is not only the top foreign destination for U.S. travelers, but it is also home to the largest population of U.S. citizens who decide to settle temporarily and permanently outside of the United States. History, culture, geographical proximity, and well-established migration flows uniquely tie both countries together. Though estimates of the U.S. immigrant population in Mexico vary, the trend suggests the number is growing and that it could be as large as 1.5 million. According to Mexico’s most recent official census data of 2015:
- U.S. citizens make up the largest immigrant group in Mexico. Of the one million immigrants living in Mexico in 2015, approximately 740,000 were born in the United States, representing 73 percent of the total immigrant population.
- Demographic data indicates the population is largely composed of U.S.-born children of Mexican returnees and a smaller share of retirees. Children account for the majority of U.S. immigrants who moved to Mexico between 2010 and 2015, and approximately two-thirds of this population in 2015 were ages 15 of younger.
- Compared to 43 percent of the total immigrant population in 2015, 47 percent of U.S. immigrants reported having Mexican citizenship which expands their rights, access to key services, and ability to stay in Mexico permanently.
- An estimated 70 percent of U.S. immigrants in 2015 were not part of the labor force, likely explained by the high share of children in the population, as well as retirees, as both groups are not of traditional working age.
- Concentrated mostly along the U.S.-Mexico border, the top five states where U.S. citizens reside are Baja California (124,000); Chihuahua (85,000); Jalisco (62,000); Tamaulipas (54,000); and Sonora (47,000). U.S. citizens settled in northern border states may include children of Mexican-born parents who cross the border regularly, while those living in Jalisco and central Mexico likely include U.S. retirees settled in tourist-hubs, such as Ajijic, Jalisco and San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.
- As the greatest contributor to the immigrant population, the number of U.S. citizens in Mexico more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, expanding from 344,000 to 738,000. The state of Veracruz experienced the most important percent increase during this period, growing from 2,000 to 17,000 U.S. immigrants.
TAKEAWAY: The sizes of the U.S. citizen population in Mexico and the Mexican citizen population in the United States stress the importance of developing migration policies that are beneficial for citizens of both countries. For instance, accessing Mexican identity documents that facilitate access to education and other services is undoubtedly crucial for U.S.-born children living in Mexico. Many of them are likely to return to the United States as adults, taking with them valuable employment and academic skills acquired in Mexico. Moreover, promoting a shared interest in investing in integration mechanisms for U.S. immigrants in Mexico can help address integration barriers that Mexican-born, returning migrants face.
* Spotlight by Ariel Ruiz Soto, Policy Analyst; Ana Paulina Ornelas Cruz, Research Consultant; and Andrea Tanco, Associate Policy Analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute (MPI). MPI seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through authoritative research and analysis, opportunities for learning and dialogue, and the development of new ideas to address complex policy questions. Twitter: @migrationpolicy