Mexican migration to the U.S. is in decline. The Pew Hispanic Research Center has found that since 2009, more than one million native-born Mexicans living in the U.S. returned to Mexico. But many other Mexicans never crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in the first place.

Why are some Mexican migrants choosing to stay home? What does it mean for the U.S. border with Mexico?

The decline in migration to the U.S. is not simply linked to building more barriers at the border. Changing demography, economy, the difficulties of living in the U.S. and a growing sense of opportunity at home, among many other factors, are shifting Mexican migration to the U.S.

Every year millions of Mexicans travel from their hometowns to other parts of the country for work, education and personal freedoms that domestic life and traditional expectations often limit. Migrants who decide to travel to Mexican cities, tourist sites like Cancun, factories and farms may not earn the wages that lie just across the border. Yet, they also avoid the difficulties that often come with adapting to the U.S.

Internal migration is not new, and moving within Mexico has a rich history. It is something that rural folks have done for generations, while migration to the U.S. grew only in the 1980s and 1990s.

Based on our research published in the International Journal of Sociology, we argue that internal migration is an important and viable alternative for people who are in search of security and opportunity and will not or cannot cross the U.S. border.