Half a million American minors are now living in Mexico instead of the U.S.

Young Americans have been flocking to Mexico.

While much of the current news has been focused on Central American migrants making their way through Mexico to the U.S., little attention has been paid to a different migration story: the number of American-born minors – all U.S. citizens – who left the U.S. to live in Mexico.

In Mexico, about 900,000 residents were born abroad as of 2015. Some of these are Central American migrants, but the large majority was born in the U.S. and is under age 18.

In fact, between 2000 and 2015, the population of American minors living in Mexico more than doubled. By 2015, nearly half a million minors born in the U.S. lived south of the border.

Although there have always been U.S. citizens under 18 in Mexico, never before have so many left the U.S. to live and grow up in Mexico. Who are these children and adolescents? Where and with whom do they live in Mexico?

Our research, published on June 10, uses Mexican census and intercensal data to reveal new insights into the characteristics of this group of young American citizens in Mexico.

When did they leave the US?

The growth in Mexico’s population of U.S. citizen minors largely occurred between 2000 and 2010. During this period, the Great Recession led to high rates of return migration to Mexico. At the same time, the number of U.S. removals increased annually, to a peak of 409,000 in 2012.

Our interviews with returnees in Mexico City suggest that both economic crisis and immigration enforcement drove the migration of U.S.-born minors to Mexico in the second half of the 2000s.

In 2010 and 2015, the majority of the minors were primary school-aged. In 2010, twice as many were under age 5 as were over age 12. But in 2015, about equal proportions were under 5 or over 12.

Who are their parents?

The vast majority of this group has Mexican-born parents.

In 2015, more than one-third of U.S.-born minors lived in Mexico without one or both parents. Father absence is especially common. Nearly one-third lived without their father, while 10% lived without their mother.

Seven in 10 U.S.-born minors who do not live with their parents live with a grandparent. By comparison, only half of Mexican-born minors do not live with their parents.

Where in Mexico do they live?

The largest group of U.S. immigrants from Mexico originated in the center-west of Mexico, the historic migrant-sending region that includes the states of Jalisco, Michoacán and Guanajuato.

However, U.S.-born minors settled in Mexico in locations that are distinct from where most U.S.-bound immigrants originated. Our analysis shows that the largest group of U.S.-born minors lives in states along the Mexico-U.S. border, especially Baja California and Chihuahua, where cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez are located.

This suggests that, though these minors now live in Mexico, they maintain some ties to the U.S. For example, some parents live along the border in order for their children to commute from Mexico to school in the U.S.

What does the future hold?

The migration of U.S.-born minors from the U.S. to Mexico presents unique challenges to the minors themselves, as well as to their families and their communities.

For instance, we found that, in 2010, 53% of U.S. citizens under 18 living in Mexico did not have Mexican citizenship. Children who do not have Mexican documents cannot easily enroll in Mexican public schools. Furthermore, children who do not speak Spanish well will face problems learning in Mexican schools.

The U.S. public is concerned with the more than one million undocumented youth – or DREAMers. Many of this group live in “mixed-status families,” where at least one member is a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizen minors in Mexico also live in mixed-status families, but in some ways the challenges they face are distinct: They have the possibility for legal integration, but still face barriers to social and economic integration in Mexico.

We do not know what the future holds for this large group of young U.S. citizens with deep roots in both countries. The answer will undoubtedly unfold on both sides of the border.

is Assistant Professor at Centre for Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies, The College of Mexico, A.C. is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, Davis and is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. You can read it here.


When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less