Mexicans represent the single largest group of immigrants that enter the United States each year, but a new analysis from the Pew Research Center suggests that more Mexicans are now leaving the country than entering it. This marks the first time in nearly 50 years that Mexicans leaving the country have outnumbered Mexicans entering the country.
The Pew Research Center released a study Thursday that suggested there was a net loss of 140,000 Mexican migrants to the United States between the years of 2009 and 2014, and the trend of Mexicans returning to their home country is still on the rise.
The study found that between 2009 and 2014, 870,000 Mexicans left their country to move to the United States, while 1 million Mexicans left the United States to return home.
Pew acknowledges in its report that it is difficult to pin down the exact numbers of migrants in both directions, and the study relied on government information. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau was used to determine how many Mexicans entered the United States during the specified time period, and data from two surveys performed in Mexico was used to determine how many Mexicans left the United States.
Mexican immigration to the United States held steady through the first half of the 20th century, but it began to rise sharply in the 1950s and 1960s, and then shot up dramatically starting in the 1970s.
According to the Pew study, more than 16 million Mexicans left their home country to come to the United States over the course of the last 50 years. Many of them stayed, as the Pew study indicates that the number of Mexican nationals living in the United States hit a peak of 12.8 million in 2007, at which point the number began to fall.
The Pew study suggests that the sudden reversal in migration trends may be due to a number of factors, including economic recession in the United States and a strengthening economy in Mexico.
According to the New York Times, it is harder for illegal immigrants to enter the country now than it used to be, which may have also contributed to the shift.
“We know that crossings are definitely down and we also know it is much more difficult and costly to cross now than it used to be,” Pew research associate Ana Gonzales-Barrera told the New York Times.
The New York Daily News reports that many Mexicans are simply leaving the country to return to their families. Although immigrants often bring their families with them, or send for them later, many are broken up when one or more family members choose to leave for the United States.
Rodrigo Quiroz, one such Mexican migrant, was on a bus from Arizona to his home in Culiacan, Mexico, when his ill mother passed away. He chose to stay, and told the Associated Press that his wife and daughter may leave the United States as well.
The Pew study comes at a time when the subject of Mexican immigration has become one of the hot button issues this election cycle. Candidates like Donald Trump have identified immigration as a major tentpole issue, and the question of what to do about immigration, and specifically illegal immigration, is a tremendously contentious issue.
Although the Pew study indicates there has been a net loss in migrants between the United States and Mexico, with more Mexicans leaving than coming in recent years, the numbers involved are still very large.
According to the Pew study, the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the United States hit a peak of 6.9 million in 2007. While that number has been on the decline, due to Mexicans leaving the country to return home, the same study shows that there were still 5.6 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the country in 2014.
[Photo by David McNew / Getty Images]