Social Science > Emigration and Immigration

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Ms. Alina Carare, Catherine Koh, and Mr. Yorbol Yakhshilikov
Undocumented migration from the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) to the United States has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years, accelerating at times. The paper investigates what factors could explain this fact, by estimating an investment decision model, using annual data over 1990-2019. Economic labor market conditions (real wages and unemployment rates, especially in the U.S.) play a major role in explaining undocumented migration. Less explored drivers of undocumented migration tied to living conditions at home also explain well undocumented migration (natural disasters, coffee production, higher temperatures, and homicide rates). Tighter border enforcement measures act as a deterrent, and perceptions regarding changes of these measures could also drive up undocumented migration at times. Policies that address the root causes of migration at home, including with the U.S. help, are essential in reducing the difference between perceived benefits and expected costs of migration.