Mention the word immigration, and heated debate can erupt from pundits on both sides of the political aisle. But Presidential Fellow Ben Barrett isn't interested in the rhetoric. The sophomore preferred to spend the summer crunching numbers to explore the impact of international migration on the accumulation of wealth, individual improvement and community development in Mexico.

The future sociology and biology major worked with Professor of Sociology Elizabeth Durden this summer on an undergraduate research project using survey data collected in 134 communities in Mexico by the Mexican Migration Project. Barrett is working with data on Mexican migrants to uncover patterns in remittance – the act of sending money home to one's country of origin – and wealth accumulation of migrant households. Durden says scholarly research has repeatedly documented the positive economic impact immigrants make on the United States. "Yet work is still being done to tease out the economic and development impact migrants make on their own communities in Mexico," she says. "Ben's research will add to this conversation."

"The data tells us that migrants are wealthier than non-migrants, as measured by value of household land and average number of properties and businesses owned," says Barrett. It is unclear, however, if migration leads to greater wealth or if migrants simply come from wealthier homes. Barrett is now attempting to unravel this tricky question.

"My interests dovetail nicely with Professor's Durden's research, which focuses on wealth accumulation patterns of entire communities," says Barrett, one of only five students selected to present research at the Eastern Sociological Society annual conference in Boston in April 2013. He and Durden will present their findings at another national conference this year, in addition to submitting a co-authored article for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Barrett received a summer stipend to support his research from Bucknell's highly competitive Program for Undergraduate Research


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