Climate change is playing an important role in spurring the migration of Mexicans to the United States, BBVA bank said in a report released in Mexico.

The Spanish banking group, which has a migration-studies service in Mexico and whose BBVA Bancomer unit is Mexico's largest financial institution, said available information shows that households in migrant communities for the most part do not own land.

Of those who do, the majority have dry land that is ill-suited for agriculture.
"It can therefore be inferred that the environment is playing an important role in encouraging Mexicans to emigrate to the United States," the bank said.

The study cites a survey that was conducted by the Mexican Migration Project and based on interviews of 19,906 Mexican and 922 U.S. households between 1982 and 2009.

According to the BBVA study, of 161,832 homes in communities that are traditional sources of emigrants, 139,470 (86.1 percent) did not own land, 14,322 (8.8 percent) own dry land, 5,533 (3.4 percent) irrigated land, 944 (0.58 percent) grazing land and 823 (0.5 percent) vegetable gardens.

"Soil erosion and changes in rainfall patterns have been additional factors for emigration," the study said.

"Emigration frequently has served as an income-diversification strategy," the study added. Remittances have been used in some areas of the country "primarily to cover basic needs and as replacement income to protect against a decline in farm production, due to high climate dependence."

The report, which was released Wednesday and compiled figures gathered from various studies, said the Mexican states most vulnerable to climate change are Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Mexico and Tabasco.

Those regions are particularly vulnerable because they suffer from rapid population growth, high water consumption" and "high incidence of infectious diseases."

"It is reasonable to say that climate has been a factor encouraging some people to leave their communities and relocate to other regions, whether inside the country to more urban areas or even emigrating abroad," the financial institution concluded.

According to BBVA, the sharp drop in the number of Mexicans emigrating to the United States in recent years - from about 650,000 in 2006 to roughly 200,000 last year - is mainly due to that country's recent economic woes.

Authorities estimate that approximately 12 million Mexicans - half of them undocumented immigrants - live in the United States. That figure does not include U.S.-born citizens of Mexican descent.

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