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Emma Aguila Vega, USC

Who Returns to Mexico? A Human Capital Selection Approach to Rural and Urban Mexican Undocumented Immigrant Return versus Aging in the United States
When Mar 11, 2024
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 2208 LeFrak - in-person/Hybrid
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Presentation

(Note that topic, title, and abstract were updated on 2/16/24)

The characteristics of Mexican immigrants who age in the U.S. will depend not only who among the Mexican-born population emigrates to the U.S., but also by who among those immigrants stays in the U.S. versus returns to live and age in Mexico. The present study contributes to the overall picture of Mexican migrant selectivity by investigating the human capital selectivity of returning labor migrants, both overall and by their rural versus urban Mexico origins. We compare emigrating and returning Mexican migrants in 1998-2015, using a unique source of data, the Survey of Migration at the North Border (EMIF), in which returning migrants were asked both their earnings while in the U.S. and their earnings in Mexico before emigrating to the U.S. We use the EMIF data together with Mexican Census data to estimate selectivity both on observed education and on unobserved human capital estimated from differences between predicted and observed earnings of Mexican emigrants to the U.S. The results are consistent with theoretical predictions of return migrants’ positive selection on human capital relative to the total flow of emigrants to the U.S. This main result is attributable to positive selectivity of returners among the numerically-dominant, rural-origin migrant group. The longer-term implications are that Mexican-born migrants who age in the U.S. may be doubly negatively selected on human capital characteristics compared to those who were born and lived their lives in Mexico.

About the Speaker

Dr. Emma Aguila is an Associate Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public of Policy. She was previously a Senior Economist and Director of the RAND Center for Latin American Social Policy (CLASP). Dr. Aguila earned her Bachelor’s Degree at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico (ITAM) in Mexico City. She completed her master’s and Ph.D. in Economics at University College London in the United Kingdom. Her research focuses on assessing the effects of safety net policies, and social security programs on cognitive decline and well-being of older adults, and the interrelation between social and behavioral factors and health including cognition. She serves as Editor of the Journal of Pension Economics & Finance. She has also authored several articles in top-ranking scientific journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Demography, Social Science & Medicine, Review of Economics and Statistics, and the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. Dr. Aguila is currently Council Member for the Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NICHMD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Co-Investigator of the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) survey in Mexico.

Seminar Format

Location IN PERSON: 2208 LeFrak Hall.  We are requesting advanced registration so that we can track capacity.  Please use this link to RSVP.


Location ONLINE VIA ZOOM: Zoom Registration Link. Upon registration, you will receive an automatically generated email with the direct link for the seminar


  • If accommodations are needed, please send request to meeting organizer ( at least 72 hours prior to the event, if possible, to allow time to discuss and implement alternatives.


COVID-19 Information

MPRC public events for Fall 2023 will be a mix of in person and online via Zoom.  For in person events, all event attendees must follow current protocols


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