Academic journal article Demographic Research

A Multistate Life Table Approach to Understanding Return and Reentry Migration between Mexico and the United States during Later Life

Academic journal article Demographic Research

A Multistate Life Table Approach to Understanding Return and Reentry Migration between Mexico and the United States during Later Life

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

Popular media suggest that international migration is an increasingly viable option for older Americans (e.g., Christie 2006; Hawley 2007; Sassen 1988). Reasons why this group, as well as older Europeans, move abroad include a lower cost of living, favorable climate, and greater amenities available overseas (Casado-Díaz, Kaiser, and Warnes 2004; Sunil, Rojas, and Bradley 2007). However, far less attention has been paid to the international migration behavior of older Mexicans in the United States. This represents a significant omission, considering the rapid growth and aging of Mexicans in the country. Mexicans are the largest immigrant group in the United States, representing 30% of the total foreign-born population (Grieco and Trevelyan 2010), and their migration stream constitutes the largest migrant flow in the world (The World Bank 2011). Hispanics in general also represent the fastest growing group at older ages (Administration on Aging 2010), given their lower mortality rates and longer life expectancies relative to other ethnic and racial groups in the United States (Palloni and Arias 2004). Aguilera (2004) is among the few to examine retirement migration among Mexicans in the United States and finds that 38% of newly legalized Mexican immigrants intend to retire in Mexico. It remains unclear, however, how many actually do so and whether they reenter the United States at a later point.

The lack of research on this topic would suggest that older Mexicans are a geographically immobile group. Yet older Mexicans have social and financial incentives for return migration (defined here as the act of returning to the country of origin) such as social support and land ownership (Massey 1987b), and reentry migration (defined as the act of reentering the United States from Mexico) including proximity to children and grandchildren, and retirement benefits (Banks 2009). Despite these push and pull factors, research often treats international retirement migration as a singular occurrence and ignores the possibility of return to the home country and subsequent reentry to the United States (e.g., Aguila and Zissimopoulos 2008; Casado-Díaz, Kaiser, and Warnes 2004; Sunil, Rojas, and Bradley 2007; Vega 2015). By doing so, the current literature leaves unexamined the important implications that the timing and duration of migration spells have on micro- and macro-level outcomes. For example, individuals who plan on returning to the home country during retirement may tailor their wealth accumulation during their working years so as to retire comfortably in the home country without considering the possibility of reentering the United States. At the macroeconomic level, every year a migrant spends abroad generates savings to old-age support programs tied to residence within the United States.

Empirical evidence also denotes the importance of return and reentry on population-level phenomena such as the salmon bias. Pablos-Méndez (1994) describes the salmon bias as immigrants' desire to return to the home country before death. Researchers have asserted that the salmon bias explains Hispanic health and mortality advantages in the United States (Palloni and Arias 2004), although several studies have challenged this claim (Abraído-Lanza et al. 1999; Turra and Elo 2008). Most of these studies, however, ignore the possibility of immigrants reentering the United States at a later point. Turra and Elo (2008) are among the few to consider this possibility. The authors find that reentry is just as important in understanding the salmon bias as return to the country of origin. They find that mortality rates are nearly as high for migrants reentering the United States as they are for migrants who return to the country of origin. Thus, any tendency for unhealthy migrants to leave the United States is potentially offset by the higher mortality rates of immigrants who reenter the United States. …

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