20080418 mexican laborers 18
Pedro Clemente, 18, and his wife Maria Rafael, 17, undocumented farm laborers from Mexico, work in an artichoke field in Thermal, Calif. - 


TESS VIGELAND: We tend to use things like consumer confidence, GDP and inflation to measure how the economy's doing. Here's another indicator: Mexican immigrants are sending smaller and smaller portions of their paychecks home. Remittances dropped by nearly 7 percent in January compared to a year earlier, because of tumbling wages and jobs here. Many returned home.
But they're finding the economic picture in Mexico isn't much healthier. Marketplace's Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: The parts of Mexico that are most dependent on cash from the U.S. are the areas seeing the steepest declines in remittances. That will certainly lead to greater poverty. And it could also mean more Mexicans will head north, says Kathleen Newland with the Migration Policy Institute.

KATHLEEN NEWLAND: Ironically, as people are getting less money from relatives in the United States, probably more people are going to set out for the United States, even knowing that it's become more difficult to find jobs.

Other experts disagree. They say most Mexicans migrate to the U.S. for one simple reason: to find a well-paying job. George Grayson is with the College of William and Mary.

GEORGE GRAYSON: Mexican poor people are extremely astute, and they're not going to waste their money trying to get into the United States when they realize there's much less of a chance of finding a job now than there was say a year or two.

Grayson says these poor people will just make due in Mexico, the way they always have.

GRAYSON: They are masters at stretching a limited amount of food, of handing down clothing, and putting a blanket on the floor so that a family member who's out of work has a place to stay.

Experts say they don't have the data yet to gauge which way the migration wave is moving.
Again, Kathleen Newland:

NEWLAND: It's hard to say exactly at what point on this roulette wheel that ball is going to stop.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.