March 14, 2005

Survey of Mexican Migrants, Part Two

III. Ties to Mexico

Substantial shares of respondents in the Survey of Mexican Migrants reported maintaining close ties to Mexico in a variety of ways, such as owning property there or sending remittances to family members.

A little more than a third (35%) of the respondents said they owned land, housing or a business in Mexico, but the share was much higher among men (43%) than women (24%). As well as gender, age was an important factor in determining which respondents owned property or a business in Mexico; the share saying they did so increased markedly among older respondents. Finally, the propensity of respondents to say they owned property increased along a steady gradient according to the income they earned in the United States. Respondents who earned $400 or more a week were more than twice as likely to say they owned property as those who earned $100 or less (52% vs. 20%). It is worth emphasizing that the survey question did not inquire about family holdings but specifically asked, “¿Es usted dueño de tierra, vivienda o negocio en México?” (Are you the owner of land, housing or a business in Mexico?)

Owning property was not, however, linked to the amount of time respondents had been in the country. Recently arrived and long-term migrants said they owned property in Mexico in roughly equal shares. Similarly, no significant differences emerged according to the respondents’ level of education. And relatively small differences were apparent in levels of ownership according to the respondents’ state of origin in Mexico.

Housing was by far the most common form of ownership, with 23 percent of all the respondents and 28 percent of the males saying they owned homes in Mexico. Land was owned by 14 percent of all respondents and 19 percent of the males, while only 2 percent of respondents said they owned businesses. The survey asked respondents to indicate all forms of ownership, and some owned more than one.

The survey respondents showed a high propensity to send money home to their families in the form of remittances. Nearly eight in ten (78%) said they send money to Mexico, and about half (52%) said they send money once a month or more.

A quarter (25%) of the male respondents and just a tiny fraction (2%) of the female respondents who said they were married or had a long-term partner said that their spouse or partner lived in Mexico. Most of the respondents (59%) who said that their spouse or partner lives in Mexico had been in the United States for five years or less.

As for keeping in touch with their homeland, more than half of all respondents (54%) said they talked with their family in Mexico by phone at least once a week. This remained true even among those who had been in the United States for more than ten years; of these, 46 percent said they were on the phone to family in Mexico at least once a week.

New forms of communication are also taking hold in this population. Asked how often they communicate with family in Mexico by email or another means involving a computer, 17 percent of the respondents said they do so regularly and an additional 18 percent said they do so sometimes. Not surprisingly, the computer users were concentrated among the younger and better educated respondents.

Civic organizations, sports teams or social clubs in the United States that bring together other Mexicans who share the same community of origin are a much less common way of maintaining ties to the homeland. Only 14 percent of respondents said they belonged to such groups.