Return Migration Among Mexican Elderly in the U.S.

by Alma Celina Vega, University of California, Berkeley

This study examines the role of Social Security in the out-migration of elderly Mexican immigrants in the United States. Existing research shows that Social Security has a large impact on retirement decisions. However, far less work examines its effects on migration decisions. Aguila and Zissimopoulos (2008) fi nd that Mexicans age 50+ who were in the United States for more than a year were less likely than those with less or no U.S. migration history to have any type of public health insurance, denoting their low contributions to Social Security systems. Social Security influences immigration as well. Sana and Massey (2000) fi nd that the odds of out-migration from Mexico to the United States were higher for male household heads working in jobs that were not covered by Social Security compared to those with jobs with such coverage. The current lack of information on elderly return migration creates a notable gap in our understanding of retirement. This form of emigration potentially impacts U.S. social service consumption through programs such as Medicare and Supplemental Security Income, which are generally unavailable to individuals living abroad. Elderly return migration also calls into question traditional measures of elderly well-being, which often focus on fi nancial and health measures, and omit preferences regarding location of retirement. Return migration may also impact the receiving country through economic multiplier eff ects that reduce unemployment and increase income in that community.

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