Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ann Carlos

Second Advisor

Brian Cadena

Third Advisor

Lee Alston

Fourth Advisor

Francisca Antman

Fifth Advisor

Fernando Riosmena


Mexican migration in the early twentieth century was characterized by relatively unimpeded entry in the first part of the century, repatriation policies in the late 1920s and 1930s, and guest worker migration under the Bracero Program from 1942 to 1964. I utilize newly-collected, archival datasets and novel empirical techniques to better understand these episodes.

In the first paper we estimate the self-selection of Mexican migrants into and out of the United States in the 1920s. We use height to proxy migrant quality and to measure self-selection into migration in 1920. Migrants were positively selected on height compared to the Mexican population. We then link these migrants to the 1930 U.S. and Mexican censuses to obtain samples of permanent and return migrants and estimate the selection into return migration. Return migrants were not differentially self-selected on height relative to permanent migrants.

In the second paper I examine the development impacts of the Bracero Program. Exploiting a natural experiment in the institutional structure of the program, I use a state’s proximity to the nearest recruitment center as an instrument for bracero out-migration to estimate the causal effect of bracero migration on human capital investments in sending states. IV estimates show that bracero migration caused increases in primary school enrollments and education spending. Analysis of heterogeneous effects reveals that the effect occurred for the marginal years of education and that the effect was relatively bigger for female children than for male children. These results suggest that guest worker programs can serve as good development policy.

In the third paper, I examine the impact of the Bracero Program on entrepreneurial investments. Exploiting microdata and within person variation in migration choices, I estimate both an individual fixed effects model and a hazard model to ascertain the effect of bracero migration on the decision to start a new business. Results indicate that bracero migration caused an increase in the propensity to start new businesses, and that bracero trips were more likely to result in business investment than were illegal trips. This chapter provides further evidence of guest worker programs as good development policy.