The number of migrants leaving Mexico dropped by more than two-thirds since peaking in the middle of the last decade, and more migrants are coming back than before, according to new census figures released Thursday.
The National Statistics and Geography Institute said the 2010 census shows a net outflow of about 145,000 Mexicans leaving the country per year from 2005 to 2010, the period covered by the count.
That is down from a peak of about 450,000 between 2000 and 2005, and about 240,000 per year between 1995 and 2000.
The census is held once every 10 years, but an intermediate count is held every five. The vast majority of Mexican migrants head to the United States.
Eduardo Sojo, the president of the institute's board, said the number of immigrants returning, while still a minority, had almost doubled over the decade.
"The migration phenomenon has undergone a drastic change in the last five years," Sojo said.
About 31 percent of migrants who left in the last five years had returned, compared to about 17 percent of migrants who left in 2000, Sojo said. He attributed the lower outflows to the economic downturn in the United States and the greater difficulty of crossing the border as a result of stepped-up U.S. border enforcement.
And he said there was a third factor that was perhaps rooted in Mexico's steadily slowing rate of population increase. Population growth cooled to about 1.4 percent in 2010, from a peak of about 3.4 percent per year in the 1960s. Mexico's population now stands at about 112 million and while still young, is increasingly graying.
Only 29.3 percent of the population was under 15 in 2010, compared to 34.1 percent in 2000. The average number of children for women of childbearing age has fallen to 1.7, from 2.4 in 1990. There are only 3.9 people living in the average home, as compared to 5 in 1990.
"In the end, the supply of migrants is not unlimited," Sojo said. "There is a finite number of people are willing to take that risk."
Sojo also noted that population had dropped in some cities and towns in the north of Mexico, a region that once saw explosively high growth rates but which has been particularly hard hit by drug cartel violence.
"In effect, we have seen a decline in the population in some municipalities in the north of the country," Sojo said. "We asked the census takers in the area what the reason was, and in many cases the reason was people migrating out of these townships ... we cannot venture a guess as to the reasons" why they left, or whether the violence played a role.
But in some cases, the effect is clear: the town of El Porvenir in the Rio Grande Valley, which has become a battle ground for cartels, lost more than half its population between 2005 and 2010. Ciudad Mier, in Tamaulipas state, has lost more than a quarter of its population in the same period.
In other data, the average Mexican had 8.6 years of schooling in 2010, compared to 6.5 years in 1990. About 84 percent of Mexicans listed themselves as Catholic in 2010, down from 89.7 percent in 1990.
Most Mexicans _ 59.5 percent _ received salaries of $15 per day or less, and 38.7 percent were paid $10 per day or less. While the vast majority of Mexicans have basic services and access to some form of health care, only 21.3 percent of households have internet and 29.4 percent have computers.