Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Migrant agency and community structure: Competing explanations for economic decline in migrant sending communities of rural central Mexico

Richard C. Jones


In response to Giddens' structuration theory, this study attempts to unravel the linkages between migration and local economic growth by moving beyond the household to the community level of analysis, and by considering lagged relationships over several years. The case study -24 towns in central Zacatecas, Mexico-concludes that remittances from US migration play an ambiguous role, providing basic income but at the same time resulting in more expenditures outside the community, which results in a lower multiplier effect and lower growth rates (measured by population growth). The reason for the externalization of expenditures is not so much the migration experience itself, as the socio-economic structure of sending communities, including their small populations and poor employment structures, which put overwhelming constraints on their growth and development.


migration; economic growth; structure; agency; Mexico

Full Text:



Binford, L. (2003). Migrant remittances and (under)development in Mexico. Critique of Anthropology, 23(3): 305-36.

Black, R. and Costaldo, A. (2009). Return migration and entrepreneurship in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire: the role of capital transfers. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 100(1): 44-58.

Bradshaw, T. K., and Blakely, E. J. (1982). The changing nature of rural America. Policy Studies Review 2(1): 12-25.

Brunn, S. (1968). Changes in the service structure of rural trade centers. Rural Sociology, 33: 200-206.

Cantú, B., Shaiq, F. and Urdaniva, A. (2007). Migration and local development. In: Cornelius, W., and Lewis, J. (eds), Impacts of Border Enforcement on Mexican Migration: the View from Sending Communities. La Jolla, CA: Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UCSD, 129-47.

Cohen, J., Jones, R.C. and Conway, D. (2005). Why remittances shouldn't be blamed for rural underdevelopment in Mexico. Critique of Anthropology 25(1): 87-96.

CONAPO (2000). Consejo Nacional de Poblacioacute;n (the Mexican National Council on Population): Mexico, D.F.

Dale, B. and P. Sj�holt. (2007). The changing structure of the central place system in Tr�ndelag, Norway, over the past 40 years - viewed in the light of old and recent theories and trends. Geografiska Annaler, 89 B (S1): 13-30.

Davidson, C. (1990). The changing small town in the Sunbelt. Focus, Spring: 5-9.

De Haas, H. (2010). Migration and development: a theoretical perspective. International Migration Review, 44(1): 227-64.

DiSipio, L. (2002). Sending money home… for now. In: R. O. de la Garza and B. L. Lowell (eds.), Sending money home: Hispanic remittances and community development, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 157-87.

Durand, J., Parrado, E., and Massey, D.S. (1996). Migradollars and development: a reconsideration of the Mexican case. International Migration Review, 30(2): 423-44.

Durand, J., and Massey, D.S. (2003). Clandestinos: Migracioacute;n Mexico-Estados Unidos en los Albores del Siglo XXI (Clandestines: Mexico-US Migration at the Beginnings of the Twenty-First Century). Zacatecas: Universidad Autoacute;noma de Zacatecas.

Ellis, F. (1998). Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification. Journal of Development Studies 35(1): 1-38.

Forsyth, T. and M. Leach (1998). Poverty and environment: priorities for research and policy, an overview study. Sussex, UK: Institute of Development Studies (UN Development Programme and European Commission).

Gibson, L. J., and Glenn, E. (1999). The Round Valley region economic base study: a generic case study of three hypothetical communities. Economic Development Review, 16 (3): 53-62.

Giddens, A. (1984). The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Guía Roji (1985). Gran Atlas de Carreteras de México (Atlas of Mexican Highways). Mexico D.F.

Hinderink, J., and Titus, M. (2002). Small towns and regional development: major findings and policy implications from comparative research. Urban Studies, 39(3): 379-91.

INEGI (2000). Instituto National de Estadística, Geografía, y Informática (the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information), Censo Nacional de Poblacioacute;n y Vivienda (National Population and Housing Census), Mexico, D.F.

INEGI (1990). Instituto National de Estadística, Geografía, y Informática (the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information), Censo Nacional de Poblacioacute;n y Vivienda (National Population and Housing Census), Mexico, D.F.

INEGI (1980). Instituto National de Estadística, Geografía, y Informática (the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information), Censo Nacional de Poblacioacute;n y Vivienda (National Population and Housing Census), Mexico, D.F.

Jones, R. C. (1995). Ambivalent Journey: U.S. Migration and Economic Mobility in North-Central Mexico, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Jones, R.C. (1998). The renewed role of remittances in the New World order. Economic Geography 74(1), 1-7.

Jones, R. C. (2007). South Texas town in transition: an economic base analysis of Floresville. Southwestern Geographer, 12: 20-39.

Jones, R. C. (2009). Migration permanence and village decline in Zacatecas: when you can't go home again. The Professional Geographer, 61(3): 382-99.

Jones, R. C., and de la Torre, L. (2009). Endurance of transnationalism in Bolivia's Valle Alto. Migration Letters, 6(1): 63-74.

Jurgens, J. (2001). Shifting spaces: complex identities in Turkish-German migration. In: Pries, L. (ed), New Transnational Social Spaces: International Migration and Transnational Companies in the Early Twenty-first Century, London: Routledge, 94-112.

Kwang-Koo, K., Marcouiller, D.W., and Deller, S.C. (2005). Natural amenities and rural development: understanding spatial and distributional attributes. Growth And Change 36(2): 273-297.

Levitt, P. (2001). The Transnational Villagers. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mahler, S. (1998). Theoretical and empirical contributions toward a research agenda for transnationalism. In: Smith, M., and Guarnizo, L. (eds), Transnationalism from Below, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 64-100.

Marcelli, E., and Lowell, B.L. (2005). Transnational twist: pecuniary remittances and the socioeconomic integration of authorized and unauthorized Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles County. International Migration Review, 39(1), 69-102.

Nicholson, B. (2004). The Tractor, The Shop And The Filling Station: Work Migra-tion As Self-Help Development In Albania. Europe-Asia Studies, 56(6): 877-890.

Riosmena, F. (2004). Return versus settlement among undocumented Mexican mi-grants, 1980 to 1996. In: J. Durand and D. Massey (eds.), Crossing the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 265-280.

Sachs, J. (2005). Why Countries Fail to Achieve Economic Growth. In: Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for our Time, New York: Penguin Press, 56-73.

SIMBAD (2000). Sistema Municipal de Base de Datos (The Mexican Municipal Data Base System), produced by INEGI (Instituto National de Estadística, Geografía, y Informática (the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Information). Mexico, D.F. Online at:

Smith, R. (2001). Comparing local-level Swedish and Mexican transnational life: an essay in historical retrieval. In: L. Pries (ed.), New transnational social spaces: inter-national migration and transnational companies in the early twenty-first century, London: Routledge, 37-58.

Sridhar, K.S. (2010). Determinants of city growth and output in India. Review of Urban Regional Development Studies, 22 (1): 22-38.

Stark, O., Taylor, J.E., and Yitzhaki, S. (1986). Remittances and inequality. Economic Journal, 96(Sept.): 722-40.

Taylor, J.E. and Dyer, G. A. (2005). Migration and the sending economy: a disaggre-gated rural economy-wide analysis. Journal of Development Studies, 45(6): 966-989.

Tiebout, C. M. (1962). The community economic base study. New York: Committee for Economic Development.

Vullnetari, J. and King, R. (2008). Does your granny eat grass? On mass migration, care drain and the fate of older people in rural Albania. Global Networks, 8(2):139-171.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Transnational Press London

Copyright © 2003-2016 Migration Letters / Transnational Press London | All rights reserved | Contact Us