This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mexico's Demography Will Help Drive its Future

This week's Economist has a special section on Mexico and a big part of the story is about Mexico's demography, including its declining birth rate, and its diminishing wave of immigrants north to the US.
Fewer Mexicans now move to the United States than come back south. America’s fragile economy (with an unemployment rate nearly twice as high as Mexico’s) has dampened arrivals and hastened departures. Meanwhile, the make-up of Mexican migration is changing. North of the border, legal Mexican residents probably now outnumber undocumented ones. The human tide may turn along with the American economy, but the supply of potential border-hoppers has plunged: whereas in the 1960s the average Mexican woman had seven children, she now has two. Within a decade Mexico’s fertility rate will fall below America’s.
Undervaluing trade and overestimating immigration has led to bad policies. Since September 11th 2001, crossing the border has taken hours where it once took minutes, raising costs for Mexican manufacturers (and thus for American consumers). Daytrips have fallen by almost half. More crossing-points and fewer onerous checks would speed things up on the American side; pre-clearance of containers and passengers could be improved if Mexico were less touchy about having American officers on its soil (something which Canada does not mind). After an election in which 70% of Latinos voted for Mr Obama, even America’s “wetback”-bashing Republicans should now see the need for immigration-law reform.
The article also notes that the demographic dividend for Mexico will nonetheless be less dramatic than it has been in Asia for two reasons: (1) the birth rate has not dropped as quickly, so the age structure is not as favorable; and (2) Mexico has not made the same kind of improvements in its educational system as have Asian countries. Nonetheless, it was very encouraging to read that Mexico's Minister of Higher Education is Rodolfo TuirĂ¡n, a well known demographer. 

The Economist's urging that America pay closer and more realistic attention to Mexico echoes the comments made on CNN this weekend by Robert Kaplan, author of a new book on "The Revenge of Geography."

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