The study, published in July in the American Sociological Review, offered a glimpse into the reasons why people choose to enter the United States illegally, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Mexican men are more likely to decide to enter the United States illegally if they think they have fewer job opportunities in Mexico, the study indicated.
Emily Ryo, a Stanford Law School research fellow and author of the study, said she found that the way would-be immigrants view U.S. law also is important. She said her study found Mexican men who believe U.S. immigration rules are unfairly applied were more likely to plan on violating them.
If Mexican migrants questioned whether U.S. immigration laws are fair, they could justify violating the law because it was "not worthy of obedience," Ryo said.
When Ryo talked to people about to cross the border illegally, she said she found many considered the decision part of their responsibility to help get their families "through situations that were brought on through no fault of their own, such as a crop failure or an economic downturn."
The study also found people who have friends or family who tried to cross illegally are much more likely to plan to do the same, indicating that some communities may have developed a "culture of migration" elevating it to a rite of passage for young men, Ryo said.
Ryo said her findings -- coming as Congress debates immigration reform -- suggest strengthening immigration enforcement alone may not be enough. Alternative strategies could be spending more resources to create jobs in Mexican communities and counter perceptions U.S. immigration laws are unfairly enforced, she said.
The study surveyed more than 1,600 men interviewed in Mexican communities through the Mexican Migration Project. The survey included men 15-65 years of age who worked in Mexico or plan to work in Mexico or the United States in the coming year.