Let Them Eat Grain: Agricultural Decline, Market Liberalization, and Emigration from Mexico

52 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 11 Jan 2015

Date Written: 2009


Determining the push and pull factors of migration has long been a theoretical puzzle for scholars in the social sciences. It is a multifaceted task to determine the factors that would make a person leave home and travel to a new land, often with no money or without the protection of a visa or the prospect of citizenship. This paper will examine recent scholarship which argues that structural adjustment programs (SAP’s), along with the importation of staple crops through multilateral trade agreements such as NAFTA, have led to the neglect of the traditional agricultural sector and a decreased standard of living for the rural poor, thus intensifying the impetus for emigration. From its inception in 1994, politicians and economists have argued about the effect of NAFTA on immigration (both documented and undocumented) from Mexico to the United States. In the 14 years since the signing of NAFTA, immigration to the United States from Mexico, especially undocumented immigration, has steadily increased. Academics in many fields have offered various explanations as to why this increase has occurred, how long it will last, and what should be done about it. These arguments are compelling and varied, but one argument, which questions the effect that free trade with advanced industrial nations has had on the agricultural sector of developing nations and immigration, will be examined here in greater depth.

Keywords: NAFTA, Mexico, Immigration, Agriculture, Migration, Structural Adjustment, SAP's, undocumented, free trade, illegal

Suggested Citation

Easton, Whitney E., Let Them Eat Grain: Agricultural Decline, Market Liberalization, and Emigration from Mexico (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1452244

Whitney E. Easton (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

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