PSTC Researcher Launches Project on Mesoamerican Migration

November 16, 2023

Alongside collaborators at the Center for Demographic, Urban, and Environmental Studies at El Colegio de México, PSTC Sociologist David Lindstrom has recently acquired funding from the National Institutes of Health to launch the Mesoamerican Migration Project (MMP), a multiyear research study which will disseminate high quality, public-use data on authorized and unauthorized migration to the U.S. from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Through this innovative project, Professor Lindstrom and fellow researchers seek to better understand and document the experiences of Mesoamerican migrants and how such emergent patterns may impact the long-term trajectory of U.S. migration trends.

Despite constituting the largest segment of U.S. migration flow over the past several decades, the estimated number of unauthorized Mexican migrants living within the United States has recently declined from 6.95 million in 2007 to 5.45 million in 2016. Amidst this shift, however, rates of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have increased in the interim—ushering in a new era of U.S.-Mesoamerican migration that social science researchers have yet to comprehensively document. 

“The Mesoamerican Migration Project will fill an important void in the data available for studying these new migration flows,” Professor Lindstrom and his collaborators wrote in their proposal for the National Institutes of Health. “The public-use data provided by this study can be used to describe, monitor, and analyze current developments and long-term trends in migration, as well as inform new theory with respect to the migration of children, women and families, and the impact of adverse climatic events, crime and violence.”  

By building upon existing data provided by the NICHD-funded Mexican Migration Project and the Latin American Migration Project, MMP seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of current migration trends through an innovative survey-led approach. Specifically, among other features, MMP researchers will make use of referral sampling, social media, and telephone interviews to better reach migrant samples in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the U.S., and proactively document experiences of abuse, violence and gang intimidation, crop and livestock loss, and food insecurity through comprehensive questionnaires and stratified sampling. 

“The goal is to create a public database capable of developing and testing new theoretical and substantive syntheses that consider threat-based as well as opportunity-based migration within a common analytic framework,” Professor Lindstrom and his co-authors wrote. “The Mesoamerican Migration Project is designed to fill in the current data gaps, advance migration theory, answer policy relevant questions, and provide migration scholars with an integrated, multi-level database suitable for cross-national, cross-sectional, trend and life history analyses of migration and immigrant incorporation.”