Everything you thought you knew about Mexican immigration might be wrong—because the data might be wrong.

If your demographic data for understanding Mexican immigration issues comes from scholarly reports and/or sources that rely upon household-based reports of Mexican migration to the U.S., the data is likely not accurate. These household-based surveys have failed to count an estimated 50% of migrants from Mexico to the U.S., with a tendency to underreport whole-families that have migrated. These whole-families have unique characteristics that differ from individual migrants, resulting in lower reports of female migrants and child migrants. Misreporting about those who have migrated by survey respondents also contributes to the demographic data errors.

In the study Two Sources of Error in Data on Migration from Mexico to the United States in Mexican Household-Based Surveys the authors tested the following hypotheses concerning Mexican household-based surveys: 1) sampling error biases the data when whole households have migrated and are not left to report their migration 2) reporting errors from survey respondent bias the data when migrants are not identified. The study used the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS), a longitudinal survey of 35, 677 individuals in 8,440 Mexican households. Interviewees were surveyed in 2002 and 90% of the original sample was re-interviewed in 2005 (including 91% of U.S. migrants).

Findings of Interest:

  • Between sampling error (due to whole-household migration) and misreporting, migrant misreporting contributes to more error than the migration of whole households.
  • Due to omissions and misreporting of whole-family migrants there is likely bias in estimates of sex, household role, home ownership, and region of origin in household-based surveys.
  • Women and child migrants as well as those from Mexican border regions are underreported, while migrants from periphery regions are overestimated.