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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jennifer Lundquist

Second Advisor

David Cort

Subject Categories



Despite what the current political discourse would suggest, Mexican migration to the U.S. is at historic lows. In fact, since 2008 more people have been returning to Mexico than arriving in the United States. While the U.S. government deports hundreds of thousands of people to Mexico every year, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans living in the United States return to Mexico on their own, for a variety of reasons. Through three inter-related papers, in this dissertation, I answer a fundamental question: What are the differences in the context of reception that deportees and voluntary returnees face when they return to Mexico? While much has been written about the socioeconomic outcomes of return migrants, most of this scholarship over-emphasizes individual choice and misses the key structural constraints returning migrants face when they try to (re)establish roots in Mexico. Through quantitative analysis of surveys, and data from 90 in-depth interviews, I unpack important contextual mechanisms that lead return migrants into diverging economic paths. I find that government policies, bureaucratic structures, and social prejudice hinder the integration of all return migrants, regardless of their reason and form of return. The dissertation makes three important contributions to the scholarship on return migration. First, it provides evidence that current theories that focus on individual-level explanations for return migrant labor market outcomes are insufficient to understand the integration of return migrants in Mexico. Second, it shows that government policies and bureaucracies place return migrants, at least for some time, in a liminal citizenship category. They are legal Mexican citizens by birth, but they cannot access many rights afforded to other citizens because of having lived abroad. And third, it shows that return migration is changing sociocultural configurations in everyday interactions. By speaking English — a language associated with white elites and white foreigners in Mexico — in working class public spaces, return migrants are reshaping recognized symbolic boundaries used to justify prejudice and exclusion.