As Mexico’s economy improves, the lure of life in the US is fading fast

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The plan was to cross the Rio Grande and to find work in an American farm. It didn’t work out that way for Genaro López, a member of the Mixtec indigenous community in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He was caught and deported, and he is thankful for that.

He now lives in Monterrey, Mexico, an industrial hub some 150 miles from the US border. His income is lower—and his dwelling far more austere—than what it would have been in the US. But by staying in Mexico, he’s kept his family together, and makes a living from the age-old weaving traditions that might have been lost were he picking crops instead. His son is going to school, an opportunity he didn’t have. 

López is one of many Mexican would-be immigrants who are finding they can make do in their home country. Thanks to Mexico’s more robust economy, he can expect to have a better life in Mexico than the millions of fellow countrymen who crossed the border in previous decades. The average income in Mexico has vastly improved in the past decade, and so has the quality of life for many in the country. It’s easier to get an education than it once was, and there are more jobs on offer.

Even Mexicans who made it to the other side are now returning home—in bigger numbers than those headed to the US. And the number of illegal immigrants to the US, which had long been dominated by Mexicans, has collapsed. 

Nearly half of Mexicans still think their countrymen living in the US have it better than them, but a third now believe life in both countries is about the same, up from 23% in 2007, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.