Pains, Guns and Moves: The Eﬀect of the US Opioid Epidemic on Mexican Migration
60 Pages Posted: 26 May 2020 Last revised: 5 May 2021
Date Written: December 23, 2020
The opioid epidemic and migration along the US–Mexico border are two of the most-debated policy issues in recent US politics. We show how these two topics are interlinked: the US opioid epidemic generated large Mexican migration ﬂows. We exploit the fact that in 2010, a series of reforms to the US health care system resulted in a shift in demand from legal opiates to heroin. This demand shock had considerable eﬀects on Mexico, the main supplier of heroin consumed in the US. Violence and conﬂicts increased in Mexican municipalities suitable for opium production, as they became highly valuable to drug cartels. People migrated out of these municipalities to escape this violence, mostly to areas close to the US border and into the US. The rise in US demand for heroin increased internal migration by an estimated 90,000 individuals and migration across the border at least by 12,000.
Keywords: opioid crisis, migration, violence, organized crime, Mexico
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