Projecting Trends in Undocumented and Legal Immigrant Populations in the United States
We use administrative data on over 9 million Matr´ıcula (identification) cards issued by the Mexican government between 2008 and 2017 to Mexican-born individuals living the United States to improve estimates of the undocumented foreign-born population. These cards are held by those who do not have legal status in the United States and therefore do not have other forms of valid identification. The key contribution of our work is to use this data to produce estimates of the undocumented population from Mexico and from other countries, carefully laying out the relevant issues, assumptions, and sources of uncertainty. The ability to use the Matr´ıcula data to inform estimates of the undocumented population is particularly important because of the general lack of direct data on this group. Our preferred estimates indicate that there were on average 8.3-8.7 million undocumented Mexican individuals in the United States per year between 2008 and 2012 and 7.5-8.2 million between 2013 and 2017; both estimates are somewhat higher than the well-known estimates produced by the Pew Center. Our estimates of the undocumented immigrant population from other Latin American and Caribbean countries are more closely aligned with those from the Pew Center. Finally, we conclude that Matr´ıcula data is unlikely to be useful in estimating the undocumented population from outside of the Latin America and Caribbean region.
The research reported herein was performed pursuant to grant RDR18000003 from the US Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA, any agency of the Federal Government, or NBER. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.