NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S.-Mexico Border Boom

July 13, 2001

The North American Free Trade Agreement has changed the face of the U.S.-Mexico border, observers report. It has attracted populations to both sides and border cities are growing by leaps and bounds -- although growth in Mexican border cities is, by far, larger than on the U.S. side.

The border cities are richer than the rest of Mexico, but poorer than the U.S. They have gone from being largely agricultural to mainly industrial in 30 years.

  • Gross Domestic Product growth for border states on both sides is averaging between 5 percent and 7 percent a year.
  • While roughly 300,000 Mexican illegals enter the U.S. each year, more than twice that number head north from the Mexican south planning to stay on the Mexican side of the line, at least for now.
  • In 1990, about half of migrants did not plan to cross into the U.S. -- now 60 percent do not.
  • In a decade, the population on the Mexican side of the border has increased by nearly half -- compared with one-fifth on the U.S. side.

On the average, an American border worker makes three or four times what a worker elsewhere in Mexico does -- up from 2.5 times in 1990. In certain jobs, it can be 12 times as much.

This suggests that wages were not only hammered after Mexico's 1995 crisis, but continue to be squeezed to compete with Asian countries.

Source: "Between Here and There," Economist, July 7, 2001.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues