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Working Paper No. 13-01

Who Crossed the Border? Self-Selection of Mexican Migrants in the Early 20th Century
Edward Kosack and Zachary Ward
August 2013, revised February 2014, June 2014


We estimate the self-selection of Mexican migrants into and out of the United States in the 1920s. Officials recorded migrant height on border crossing manifests, which we use to proxy migrant quality and to measure self-selection into migration in 1920. Migrants were positively selected on height compared to the Mexican population. We link these migrants to the 1930 U.S. and Mexican censuses to obtain samples of permanent and return migrants and to estimate the selection into return migration. Return migrants were not differentially self-selected on height relative to permanent migrants.


JEL classification: J61, J24, N0, N36
Keywords: Mexico, Early Twentieth Century Migration, Self-Selection, Height