Social Security Contributions and Return Migration Among Older Male Mexican Immigrants

Published in: Gerontologist, 2017, Vol. 57, No. 3 (June 2017), pages 563–574. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw140

Posted on on May 23, 2017

by Emma Aguila, Alma Vega

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For decades, scholars have studied the effects of immigration on the U.S. social security system. To date, this research has been primarily limited to migrants within the United States and does not consider those who return to their countries of origin. We estimate the proportion of male Mexican return migrants who contributed to the U.S. social security system and analyze their socioeconomic characteristics and migration histories. We also estimate the proportion that receive or expect to receive U.S. social security benefits.

Design and Methods

Using probit regression on the 2012 Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS), we describe the predictors of having contributed to the U.S. social security system among Mexican males in Mexico aged 50 years and older who at some point lived in the United States.


We find that 32% of male return migrants reported having contributed to the U.S. social security system, but only 5% of those who contributed, received or expected to receive benefits. Those who reported having contributed spent more years in the United States and were more likely to be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents than those who did not contribute.


Immigrants often pay Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance taxes using legitimate or illegitimate social security numbers and return to their home countries without collecting U.S. social security benefits.

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