Using Big Data to Investigate the Impact of Immigrants

We will be using data provided by the Mexican government to study the effects of immigrants on their local economies and communities.

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Conventional opinion has typically been that Central American immigrants in Mexico have harmful effects on their new economies. A 2019 poll found that more than half of Mexican natives oppose immigration from Central America, the most common origin of immigration after the United States. However, modern research suggests that immigrants may actually be good for the economies they migrate to. In our project, we will investigate migration paths of Central American immigrants and their effect on their economies in Mexico. We will work with comprehensive data sets provided by el Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). This data includes information on legal immigration, estimates on illegal immigration, statistics on business success rates, and additional data available in Mexico’s census. One area we will focus on is how start-up success rates change in areas densely populated with Central American immigrants. We believe that the presence of immigrants sparks positive changes in businesses of any size for a number of reasons. First, they provide an additional pool of labor and skillsets. Second, immigration increases the number of consumers in an economy, stimulating growth. Additionally, we will examine whether legal versus illegal immigrants impacts these figures significantly.

There are several reasons why this is such a pressing issue today that needs to be analyzed. About 1% of Mexico’s known population are immigrants, many of whom had to flee their home countries for dire reasons. Two-thirds of the emigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (80,000+ of which currently reside in Mexico) experienced “murder, disappearance or kidnapping of a relative” prior to fleeing. This was typically the primary reason for their migration. These people are fleeing violent and dangerous circumstances in their home countries, usually in hope of achieving a better future in the United States or Mexico. However, both countries have been increasing security on their southern borders, making migrants’ journeys increasingly difficult. Additionally, President Trump has deported record numbers of immigrants to Mexico, adding to their increasing population of displaced migrants. These unfortunate truths have resulted in countless migrants being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border under inhumane conditions.

In addition to the hardships these people endured in their home countries, violence, theft, and negligence towards immigrants en-route to their destinations, as well as in the destinations themselves, are all critical problems. In our research we intend to examine this data on violence in Mexico and look for correlations between violence towards immigrants and economic growth or decline, high-crime areas and their start-up success rates, as well as how the introduction of immigrants into a population impacts crime statistics and how prevalent crime impacts them. Moreover, in the past year, Mexico has faced a disturbingly large number of murdered and missing women. This is a subject we will look into in our research and see how it coincides with our aforementioned studies on immigration.

The impact of our findings could be significant. If we could prove, using comprehensive statistical analysis, that immigrants have positive financial and cultural effects on their new homes, we would be providing the resources to potentially alter the political rhetoric on immigration in Mexico. Although we can do little to solve the xenophobia that is the main perpetrator of hatred towards immigrants, we can still prove that there is an economic, as well as moral, incentive for the United States and Mexico to loosen their borders, stop deportations, and make new legislation.

            COVID-permitting, this project would involve a trip to INEGI headquarters to discuss our findings and theories in person.

Samuel Meisner

Student, Cornell University

I am an undergraduate at Cornell University studying Information Science and minoring in Mathematics. My research will involve using data science and statistics to analyze a large data set provided by the Mexican government, where we will be focusing on the effects of immigrants on their economies and communities.