MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT
A Preliminary Survey of the Available Literature
Prepared by Nelle W. Temple
Overseas Development Council
1717 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
For the SIlect Commission on Immigration
and Refugee Policy
New Executive Office Building Room 2020
726 Jackson Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20506
In Fulfillment of Order No. T-18991062
MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT
A Preliminary Survey of the Available Literature
The Select Commission requested a preliminary inquiry into the
relationships among: a) migration flows, b) economic, social, and
political development in sending countries, and c) economic coopera-
tion policies of other countries (particularly the U.S.) with sending
countries. The following report of this brief two-week study is in
Part One summarizes the general findings of this inquiry which
seem most relevant to the Select Commission's policy interests. It
may be useful for the Commission to invest in more detailed analysis
and exposition of one or more of these points.
Part Two is a conceptual outline of the topics covered by the
international migration literature. This outline provides a framework
to orient those unfamiliar with this topic to the range of relevant
questions and relationships, as well as to the limitations of current
data and research.
Part Three is a selected bibliography of useful sources.
This first-stage survey of the literature intentionally took a
global view. A narrower focus on specific cases involving substantial
migration to the U.S. may be more useful and appropriate in detailed
follow-up work requested by the Select Commission on the basis of this
Due to time constraints, the literature on the dynamics of inter-
national population movements from developing countries is the main
focus. However, the extensive and largely separate literature on
dynamics of internal migration, particularly rural-urban migration,
could also yield valuable insights into the feasibility of shaping
international movements through economic and social development policies.
PART ONE: PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS RELEVANT TO THE SELECT COMMISSION'S
1. It is not clear that development programs, including employment
creation, in developing countries or regions of international out-
migration in those countries will necessarily lead to a corresponding
fall in international out-migration pressures. Virtually by definition,
policies which result in (net) job creation, enhanced economic opportuni-
ties, and slowing of natural population growth in sending areas will
moderate these oft-cited economic 'push' factors and eliminate them
when and if full-employment equilibrium is reached. Therefore, the
assumption is sometimes made that economic development measures, especially
creation of remunerative jobs for currently un- and underemployed members
of the labor force, will diminish the amount of out-migration, presumably
in the short to medium run.
This relationship is plausible in theory, perhaps especially in situa-
tions where much migration is of the temporary "crisis-induced, income-
maintenance" variety. However, this relationship has not been demon-
strated in empirical studies, even in these circumstances, and some
Recent OECD studies, The Migratory Chain, pp. 41-42, and Migration,
Growth and Development, pp. 44-45, skirt making a bold assertion of
this type, but definitely leave the impression that regional develop-
ment programs and labor-intensive public works will have beneficial
effects in slowing migration pressures.
** As is the case, according to Cornelius, Mexican and Caribbean Migration,
pp. 123-124, for much of the traditional migration to the U.S. from
Mexico's central plateau region.
*** At least, to the author's knowledge.
theory and evidence point the other way. For instance, the changes
induced by development policies such as agrarian reform aimed at raising
rural incomes have often resulted in displacing labor from rural areas
and speeding rural-urban migration (Peek and Standing). Scattered examples
exist of jobs like cane-cutting in the Dominican Republic, which local
people decline to take in spite of high un- and underemployment. Domini-
cans prefer to migrate to the U.S., while Haitians migrate to the Dominican
Republic for the cane-cutting jobs. (Glaessel-Brown cited in Cornelius,
Mexican and Caribbean Migration, p. 62.) This example illustrates that
overall migration, in and out, may even accelerate if the jobs being
created are not more attractive to the local population than the alter-
Micro-level 'causes' of migration vary widely. The effects of devel-
opment measures will, therefore, also vary: some people who would other-
wise have left will stay (for better opportunities), while others who
would otherwise have stayed will leave (for still-better opportunities).
The net aggregate effect on out-migration will vary according to the cir-
cumstances. To the extent that economic development and job creation do
increase the incomes, skills, and welfare of lower-income people who might
otherwise have been 'pushed' by inadequate economic opportunities, it may
well increase their ability and desire to migrate for other reasons.
People who are better off find it easier to arrange and finance migration.
Other push and pull forces like better professional opportunities also be-
come relatively more important as people develop higher skills and expec-
There are several reasons to doubt that even carefully targeted
development programs can reduce out-migration pressures significantly in
the short to medium run, though obviously more field research on this
question would be invaluable. For one thing, it is not yet clear exactly
how best to create remunerative employment on a large scale in developing
countries. This is one of the central policy goals of U.S. AID and of the
multilateral development banks, and substantial effort is being expended
to learn how to do this successfully. Everything that is learned about
ways to promote rapid and labor-intensive development can be expected to
help the policymakers who design future development and migration policies.
Past attempts to stem internal migration and the rapid growth of
large urban centers in developing countries through rural development and
regional development schemes are not encouraging to those who think that
economic development policies can hold people on the land (see Peek and
Standing). At the World Bank, for instance, policies to develop poorer
regions of countries (from which many internal migrants come) are promoted
on grounds of equity and economic efficiency, not because of any expecta-
tion that this will substantially diminish urban growth rates. Indeed,
rural-urban migration is not seen as problematic unless it occurs as a
response to "labor market imperfections or ill-considered public sector
investment or pricing policy." (Squire, p. 62.) Otherwise, labor mobility
in general and internal migration in particular are seen by the World Bank
as positive economic forces. (Ibid.)
It appears that economic development measures for poorer countries
and poorer regions of those countries as well as U.S. cooperation policies
which promote development must similarly be supported on their own merits --
equity and global economic efficiency. Though they may do so under certain
circumstances, these measures are not necessarily guaranteed to reduce the
economically-generated migration pressures on the U.S. in the short or
2. It is clear that any politically plausible number of immigrant and
temporary-worker visas available for migrants from developing countries
to the U.S. is bound to be substantially less than the latent demand for
such visas. While one might argue at length about whether the current
latent demand is of the order of 10 to 1, 100 to 1, or whatever, and also
about whether economic development and job creation in Third World coun-
tries would tend to increase or decrease this proportion, it seems wildly
unlikely that demand would fall below 1 to 1 in the foreseeable future,
even under the most optimistic assumptions about the pace of job creation
and population growth rate decline. This implies that economic coopera-
tion activities, by themselves, cannot be expected to limit the number of
potential migrants to a level which is politically comfortable for the
U.S. Nor, conversely, is the relatively low current level of permitted
immigration to the U.S. (assuming no illegal migration) likely to have a
major demographic or developmental impact on individual sending countries,
except perhaps some small island nations of the Caribbean. An extremely
geographically-focused, selective policy which resulted in "brain drain"
would be an exception to this statement.
3. U.S. economic and political cooperation with current or potential
sending countries may be of greater value in forestalling abrupt or
Cornelius, Mexican and Caribbean Migration, pp. 143-149 summarizes
estimates for this region. Mexico alone is likely to create less
than half the 800,000+ new jobs which would be needed annually over
the period 1976-1990 to maintain current levels of un- and underem-
ployment there (Yates cited on p. 147). The 400,000+ annual labor
surplus in this one country is roughly equivalent to the total annual
legal immigration flow to the U.S. from all countries.
politically-generated 'refugee' flows and in controlling illegal migration
than in diminishing the underlying economic causes of migration. The re-
lationship of cooperation policies and refugee flows has barely been
raised in the literature, though it is mentioned in passing in recent
State Department statements on refugee policy: "Through an active diplo-
macy, through economic and security assistance programs...we shall persist
in our efforts to resolve the conflicts and ameliorate the underlying con-
ditions that give rise to large numbers of refugees." (Secretary Cyrus
Vance, "Refugee Admissions and Resettlement," Statement before the Senate
Judiciary Committee on April 17, 1980.)
Since several of the most dramatic recent immigration flows to the
U.S. (Vietnamese "boat people," Cuban influx of 1980) have had political
origins, and at least the Vietnamese situation was slowed by political
pressure brought to bear from outside, this relationship may be worthy
of further attention. While forestalling refugee flows obviously could
not and should not be the touchstone of U.S. foreign policy, it is a
dimension which should be weighed by policymakers, especially in the
context of planning immigration policies.
Several questions come to mind concerning the impact of U.S. eco-
nomic cooperation policies on forced expulsions; on abrupt population
movements precipitated by natural disaster, famine, or civil strife;
and on illegal migration flows.
Do U.S. policies on economic cooperation with Third World nations,
individually and collectively, give us maximum political leverage,
directly or indirectly, over the actions of nations (usually our adver-
saries) who engage in mass expulsions of their own citizens? Could and
should the U.S. act to reduce the likelihood of such incidents? How?
Should the U.S. have a higher policy commitment to aid friendly devel-
oping nations that give temporary or permanent asylum to such refugees,
especially when the alternative is resettlement in the United States?
Are U.S. policies toward neighboring countries, especially Mexico,
which might send large numbers of refugees to the U.S. in the event of
natural disaster, crop failure, or civil strife framed with this con-
sideration in mind? Would more economic cooperation lessen the likeli-
hood or scale of such an occurrence?
In view of the fact that developing country governments often turn
a blind eye to illegal out-migration flows into other countries, could
economic cooperation policies induce them to share some of the policing
burdens with the destination countries?
4. There may be ways that the U.S. could, through economic cooperation
policies, help sending countries and individual migrants maximize the
economic returns of their migration to the U.S. Several of the papers
from the I.L.O.'s Migration for Employment Project are concerned with
evaluations of intergovernmental programs of cooperation between receiv-
ing and sending countries, mostly between European and Mediterranean coun-
tries. These programs attempt to maximize the use of remittances for pro-
ductive investment in the sending country, to equip workers with skills
that are needed in their home countries, or to assist in the re-integra-
tion of temporary workers in their home societies and labor markets when
they return from the developed country. OECD, The Migratory Chain gives
a short summary of several schemes in use within the OECD. Although these
programs have not enjoyed universal success (see comments by North in
Brookings Institution, pp. 375-380), the U.S. might profitably learn from
their experiences, particularly if the option of large-scale temporary
labor migration is pursued.
Another possible area of cooperation, increasingly voiced in the
literature on the "New International Economic Order," is tax compensation
from various sources (the earnings of the skilled emigrant or revenues of
receiving countries, for instance) to poor countries to reimburse them
for the costs of their "brain drain" to rich countries. This idea seems
to pose many legal and administrative problems, but may surface more and
more frequently as a focus of developing countries' concern about the
adverse effects of emigration on their economies. Since the underlying
concern is that the developing countries do not bear a disproportionate
share of the costs of international migration, closer study of labor
market conditions in both sending and receiving countries may eventually
permit less rhetorical discussion of whether compensation is a necessary
part of an equitable international migration policy.
PART TWO: MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT: A SYNTHESIS OF CONCERNS COVERED
IN THE LITERATURE.
The outline which follows pulls together questions from the various
strands of the international migration literature which are relevant to
the interrelationships of migration (especially to developed countries)
and economic, social, and political changes in countries of out-migration
(particularly less-developed ones). The topics are grouped under four
headings: characteristics of out-migration, causes of out-migration,
consequences of out-migration, and government policies that affect migra-
tion. Under each topic, the key questions or key elements advanced as
explanatory factors are identified. Most individual studies focus on
only a small part of the migration picture, so the outline is useful
as a quick overview of this complex topic.
Several caveats should be kept in mind. First, most of the questions
on the outline cannot be answered definitively at the present time. To
arrive at satisfactory general answers to these questions, or the reali-
zation that general answers do not exist, will take decades of research
in many cases.
Second, the data deficiencies and analytical deficiencies of research
on migration are not easily remedied. The practical methodological prob-
lems of research on migration are among the most severe in the social
sciences. The generalizability of micro-level case studies, of which
there are a large and increasing number, can always be questioned. Govern-
mental statistics relating to stocks and flows of migrants have numerous
problems, often complicated by illegal flows, temporary flows, and the
question of who should be considered an immigrant. (The outline assumes
that refugees are a sub-category of immigrants, for instance.) Non-com-
parability of data across countries is a severe limitation in compiling
even the most basic data on who is going where.
Third, although there are many studies of the characteristics and
motives of migrants and other studies of the ecological correlates of
migration flows, little existing research demonstrates direct policy
impacts of development upon migration or of migration upon development.
Even where they exist, aggregate-level findings may not be true at the
level of the individual and vice versa, so the results must be cautiously
interpreted. The many missing links in data and theory foster specula-
tion, ideological debate, and hamper the policy use of the research
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findings that do exist. In the future it will be useful if the migration
impacts of development programs are more systematically evaluated.
,, Last, although the general data problems in this field aresevere,
the large Mexican-U.S. flow has received substantial research attention
as have some flows to Western Europe from the Mediterranean basin. Policy-
makers may thus be in a better position to make judgments in these specific
cases than to frame general policies which are useful for a number of
No attempt has been made to summarize the answers to questions posed
by the outline in this brief exercise. Some subsections of the existing
literature about certain regions or topics have already been carefully
summarized: e.g. Cornelius on Mexican and Caribbean flows to the U.S.,
Keely on Asian-Middle Eastern flows, I.L.O. studies of the Mediterranean
basin, Yap and others on internal migration.
If the Select Commission is interested in intensive literature
searches of specific topics on this outline, they should, in view of
the time available, be focused very narrowly. The answers, where they
exist, will tend to be diverse, complex and hard to summarize if they
are based on many small case studies.
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MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Outline Topic A: Characteristics of Out-Migration
(including variations over time
and projected future trends).
Where are people leaving from? Rural vs. urban by country for
both internal and international flows.
Who leaves? Skills, socio-economic position, age, sex, family
How many leave? Absolute numbers and as proportion of local popu-
lation/labor force at various stages of the out-migration
process. What are net out-migration flows?
Where do they go? Rural vs. urban by country for both internal and
international flows with special attention to stepwise patterns.
Do they migrate temporarily or permanently? If temporary, for how
long and how often?
Is the move part of an organized flow or a private initiative by
the migrant himself?
What is the migrant's legal status in the receiving country/
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Outline Topic B: Causes of Out-Migration and Facilitating Conditions
(including dynamic effects of previous out-migration
and trends over time).
Why do people leave? Economic, political, and personal factors at
both sending and receiving ends. (Note: the sending end is
the main focus of this outline.)
Predominantly ECONOMIC causes:
Wage differentials/availability of remunerative work "pull" & "push"
Lack of productive employment/earning opportunities
Inflation in living costs relative to earnings
Better training/professional experience opportunities
Better working conditions
Sharp drop in earnings/food availability due to
natural disaster (e.g. drought, flood, crop pests)
or economic disaster (e.g. foreign exchange crisis,
swift economic retrenchment, sharp price fluctua-
tions in key commodities sold or consumed).
Sharp rise in employment opportunities or relative
wages elsewhere due to an economic boom, to ex-
change rate changes, or to a sharp drop in labor
availability there (e.g. in wartime).
Predominantly POLITICAL causes:
Economic development policies of individual developing
country governments, which affect the availability
of productive opportunities or other economic 'push'
e.g. Investment policies/employment policies
Land-holding patterns/land reform
Income distribution policies/tax policies/
'Human capital' policies: education,
Agricultural policies: pricing/extension
Global or bilateral policies of developed countries,
which affect the economic development opportunities
and policies of individual developing countries:
e.g. On trade, investment, finance, and aid.
Encouragement or lack of discouragement of immigration
by receiving countries for their own economic or
Encouragement or lack of discouragement of immigration
by sending countries for their own economic or
Political or economic repression of groups or individuals
(typically minorities or dissidents) in sending coun-
tries, sometimes explicitly directed at 'exporting'
Global or bilateral policies of receiving countries,
which affect economic or political repression in
individual developing countries.
War/civil violence/conquest/political 'settlement' of
disputes over territory.
Predominantly PERSONAL causes:
Adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit/wunderlust
Seeking a more congenial cultural milieu
Escape from social discrimination
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Prior experience of migration
Information about the destination
Kin or friends at the destination
Proximity, inexpensive access to the destination.
Who back-migrates and why?
Which have been the most important of these causes in the large
migration flows of the past and present, especially to the U.S.?
Outline Topic C: Consequences of Out-Migration and Back-Migration
on the Sending Side
(including judgments about whether the consequences
are positive, negative or neutral).
What are the consequences for the individual migrant, both at the
destination and as a back-migrant? For example:
Changes in income/wealth/consumer behavior
Changes in job opportunities/job skills/education
Changes in 'quality of life':
Physical: e.g. health, housing, diet
Mental: e.g. family separation, discrimination,
escape from a war zone
Changes in fertility behavior
Changes in national allegiance/political behavior/
What are the consequences for the migrant's family left behind? E.g.:
Changes in household income, wealth, spending patterns
(what role do remittances play?)
Changes in labor utilization and productivity within the
household and in household=based enterprises like
Changes in social behavior, e.g. sex roles
Changes in fertility behavior
Changes in the propensity to emigrate.
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What are the consequences for the local sending community? E.g.:
Changes in the sector-specific unemployment rate
Changes in the absolute and relative local factor price
of labor and other factors of production
Changes in the amount and types of local investment
(what role do remittances play?)
Changes in the local social structure/ethnic mix.
What are the consequences for the sending nation? E.g.:
Changes, by sector, in employment, wage scales, volume
of production, and productivity (are there sectors
where out-migration produces labor shortages?)
Impact of the volume and use of remittances on savings,
investment, the balance of payments and the local
Changes in demographic patterns: size, age composition,
and growth rate of population as well as spatial
distribution of population within the country
Changes in income distribution and land distribution
Changes in other 'structural' characteristics such as
external economic dependence or degree of concentra-
tion of economic and political power.
What would be the short-run and long-run impacts of dramatic curtail-
ment or expansion of migration opportunities in a short period
of time (due perhaps to a change in immigration policies in
Outline Topic D: Areas of Government Policy that Affect the Characteristics
and Causes of International Migration and its Consequences
Policies that directly affect the size and composition of the migratory flows:
Immigration/refugee quotas of receiving countries
Effectiveness of enforcement of immigration laws by receiving countries
Governmental policies of sending countries that (selectively) encourage
(e.g. Barbados, Cuba in 1980), discourage (e.g. Dominican Republic
under Trujillo to 1961, Algeria in 1973, Cuba in 197? to 1980),
or ignore (Mexico?) emigration.
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Economic policies that affect employment prospects in sending countries,
thus increasing or decreasing the "push" for internal or interna-
tional migration are outlined above under the topic "Longer-run,
predominantly political causes" of migration. A more detailed list
would include the following:
Sending (developing) countries' policies that are cited for adversely
-- affecting employment prospects in developing countries:
Lack of investment in creating off-farm, long-term jobs in
Lack of credit and agricultural services to small farmers
Subsidized credit to big farmers resulting in agricultural
mechanization and labor displacement
Interest rate, tax, and foreign exchange policies that subsidize
the cost of capital and encourage capital-intensive develop-
Stifling regulation and lack of credit for small labor-intensive
businesses, thereby limiting their productivity
Trade and industrial policy focused on import substitution rather
than export promotion
Lack of attention to family planning and other population policies
Education and manpower training policies which result in chronic
oversupply of certain skills relative to national demand.
Receiving (developed) countries' policies that are cited for adversely
affecting employment prospects in developing countries:
Trade barriers against exports, particularly labor-intensive
manufactured exports from developing countries
Inadequate promotion of technology transfer to or investment in
Insufficient and inadequate (i.e., not "predictable, continuous,
and assured") aid for development of the capital infrastructure
and human capital of poorer developing countries
A tendency of developed countries to respond to their own economic
problems in ways that throw a disproportionate amount of the
burden of adjustment on still poorer and less powerful develop-
ing countries and makes their development planning more
* By the World Bank, in World Development Report, 1979, among others.
- 17 -
e.g.: Higher domestic unemployment often leads to more
protectionism against developing country products,
severer restrictions on entry of foreign workers,
and a fall in aid flows.
Policies that affect the developmental impact of out-migration in developing
Policies to encourage larger remittances with a greater proportion
through official channels and directed at productive investments.
Selective immigration policies of receiving countries that spur brain
and skill drain from sending countries (there are proposals for
tax schemes to compensate sending countries for this negative
Policies to encourage selective back-migration and employment of
workers who have acquired new skills needed in the sending
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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SOURCES CONSULTED
(* indicates articles that have
especially useful bibliographies)
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Bourguignon, F., and Gallais-Hamonno, G. International Labour Migrations
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Shryock, Henry S., and Henderson, Harry W. "Inter-
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Brookings Institution. "Structural Factors in Mexican and Caribbean Basin
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Bustamante, Jorge. "National Survey on Outmigration in Mexico: Descrip-
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and the Caribbean Basin, June, 1978.
Chandavarkar, Anand G. "Use of migrants' remittances in labor-exporting
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Chaney, Elsa M.
The Caribbean On The Move: Undocumented Workers In The
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Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, May 15,
Conroy, Michael, et. al. "Push Factors In Mexican Immigration to the
United States: A New Effort to Analyze Background Conditions, Charac-
teristics of the Migration Stream, and Changing Socio-Economic Incentives
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* Cornelius, Wayne A. "Mexican and Caribbean Migration to the United States:
The State of Current Knowledge and Recommendations for Future Research."
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- 19 -
* Diaz-Briquets, Sergio. "International Migration Within Latin America
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Population Reference Bureau, Inc., April, 1980.
Ebanks, Edward, P.M. George, and Charles Nobbe. "Emigration and Fertility
Decline: The Case of Barbados." Demography (August 1975): 431-445.
Ecevit, Z. "International Labor Migration Economic Implications for
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Ecevit, Zafer and Zachariah, K.C. "International labor migration."
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- 20 -
Kindleberger, Charles P., et. al., Migration, Growth and Development.
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Moran, R. "International Migration and World Poverty--Background note
on some issues and magnitudes." Internal draft for discussion, World
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Patterns of Migration in Mexico and the Caribbean Basin, Brookings
Institution, June 1978.
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Peek, Peter, and Standing, Guy. "Rural-urban migration and government
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Project, November, 1977.
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Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1979.
Reichert, Josh and Massey, Douglas. "Patterns of Migration from a Rural
Mexican Town to the U.S.: A Comparison of Legal and Illegal Migrants."
Princeton University, March, 1979.
Renaud, Bertrand. National Urbanization Policies in Developing Countries.
World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 347, World Bank, July 1979.
Reubens, Edwin P. "Illegal Immigration and the Mexican Economy:" Challenge
21/5 (November/December 1978): 13-19.
Roberts, Kenneth D. with Treviio, Gustavo. Agrarian Structure and Labor
Migration in Rural Mexico: The Case of Circular Migration of Undocu-
mented Workers to the U.S. Mexico-U.S. Migration Research Report.
Draft preliminary report. Institute of Latin American Studies, The
University of Texas at Austin. March 1980.
Ross, Douglas. "The General Causes and Consequences of Illegal Immigra-
tion." Paper presented to The Immigration Group Meeting, Council on
Foreign Relations. The Conference Board, Inc., March 1978.
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