Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Agricultural Economics

First Advisor

Thomas W. Hertel

Committee Chair

Thomas W. Hertel

Committee Member 1

Angel Aguiar

Committee Member 2

Roman Keeney


The undocumented migration of Mexican nationals to the U.S. is largely influenced by labor demand in low-skill sectors. The legal migration channels available to Mexican nationals with little education are based on family petitions and subject to visa quotas which are dwarfed by the demand for entry to the United States; visa approval can take upwards of 20 years for a Mexican national with little education and few resources. Thus, undocumented immigration is a more responsive unskilled labor distribution mechanism than the existing quota-based immigration policy. However, the restrictive legal migration channels and increased costs of undocumented migration are stifling the movement of low-skill Mexican migrants, who constitute the majority share of foreign-born, low-skill workers in the U.S.

This thesis explores the impact of a market-based immigration system for Mexican nationals, wherein any Mexican national can receive a visa to live and work indefinitely in the U.S. at a price. The effects of such a policy are analyzed using a partial equilibrium model of U.S. agriculture and a computable general equilibrium model of the U.S.-Mexico economies. According to this analysis, a shift toward a market-based immigration policy will result in $5.7-$6.8 billion in revenues for the U.S. government, growth of $6.5-$30 billion in U.S. legally-documented workers’ earnings as a whole—with larger, positive impacts on high-skilled wages in the U.S., and large productivity gains for U.S. producers in all sectors. Overall, the positive effects in the U.S. economy grant validity to a market-based immigration policy as an alternative to the current quota-based policy for Mexican nationals.