OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected labour market, social policy and migration studies prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

English, French

Unauthorized Migrants in the United States

Estimates, Methods, and Characteristics

This report discusses methods of measuring unauthorized migration to the United States. The “residual method” involves comparing an analytic estimate of the legal foreign-born population with a survey-based measure of the total foreign-born population. The difference between the two population figures is a measure of the unauthorized migrant population in the survey; it can then be corrected for omissions to provide a measure of the total unauthorized population. The report includes a detailed description of the residual methods and the underlying data and assumptions as it has been applied to recent data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and decennial censuses. The paper presents new results of estimates derived from the march 2006 CPS which show that the unauthorized population in the U.S. has reached 11.5 million; of these, 6.5 million or 57% are from Mexico. The report also presents derived data on a range of social and economic characteristics of the unauthorized population developed with an extension of the residual estimates. Finally, historical data on trends in unauthorized migration and several alternative estimation methods are presented and discussed.


JEL: J1: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demographic Economics; J61: Labor and Demographic Economics / Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers / Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers; N42: Economic History / Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation / Economic History: Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation: U.S.; Canada: 1913-; F22: International Economics / International Factor Movements and International Business / International Migration
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