TCS Daily

How the Mexican Immigration Problem Will Solve Itself

By Robert M. Dunn - June 28, 2007 12:00 AM

As the debate over illegal immigration from Mexico rages in Washington and across the country, and as the administration's reform bill hangs by a thread, few Americans are aware that this problem will automatically decline and eventually become a vague memory.

There has been a stunning decline in the fertility rate in Mexico, which means that, in a few years there will not be many teenagers in Mexico looking for work in the United States or anywhere else. If this trend in the fertility rate continues, Mexico will resemble Japan and Italy - rapidly aging populations with too few young workers to support the economy.

According to the World Bank's 2007 Annual Development Indicators, in 1990 Mexico had a fertility rate of 3.3 children per female, but by 2005, that number had fallen by 36 percent to 2.1, which is the Zero Population Growth rate. That is an enormous decline in the number of Mexican infants per female. The large number of women currently in their reproductive years means that there are still quite a few babies, but as this group ages, the number of infants will decline sharply. If this trend toward fewer children per female continues, there being no apparent reason for it to cease, the number of young people in the Mexican population will decline significantly just when the number of elderly is rising. As labor markets in Mexico tighten and wage rates rise, far fewer Mexican youngsters will be interested in coming to the United States. Since our baby boomers will be retiring at the same time, we could face a severe labor shortage.

There have been significant declines in fertility rates across Latin America, but Mexico's has been unusually sharp. In El Salvador, another country from which immigrants come, a 3.7 rate in 1990 became 2.5 by 2005. Guatemala is now at 4.3, but that is far lower than it was in 1990. Jamaica, another source of illegal U. S. immigrants, has fallen from 2.9 to 2.4 over the same period. Chile and Costa Rica, at 2.0, are actually slightly below a replacement rate. Trinidad and Tobago, at 1.6, is well below ZPG. For all of Latin American and the Caribbean, a rate of 3.2 in 1990 fell to 2.4 in 2005, a decline of 25 percent. This means less pressure on the United States from illegal immigrants from the entire area, not just from Mexico. A powerful demographic transition is well underway, and soon many of these countries may be worried about there being too few babies rather than too many. We may miss this labor, and wonder how we will replace it.

What is going on in Latin America? Better education and improved job opportunities for women mean that it has become quite expensive for them to leave the labor force to have more children. The improved availability of birth control technology and liberalization of abortion rules in some countries mean that it is easier for women to avoid that outcome.

Fertility rates are declining across the globe, but the change is particular striking to our south. The world fertility rate fell from 3.1 to 2.6 over the 1990-2005 period. The population bomb is becoming a fire cracker.

Another reason for the particularly sharp decline in Mexico is the cultural influence of the United States. Our xenophobic nationalists fear that we are being 'Mexicanized.' In fact the opposite may be underway. NAFTA, our mass media, the more widespread use of English, and the large number of people going back and forth (legally or otherwise) mean that Mexicans are increasingly influenced by our culture, and that implies fewer babies. The United States also has a fertility rate of 2.1, but that is the same as it was in 1990. Mexico is becoming more similar to the United States, which must frustrate their nationalists.

The main point for the United States is that we have only a temporary problem with illegal immigration from Mexico. For another decade or a bit more we must attempt to limit such entry, but then the problem will fade like the smile on the Cheshire Cat. Lou Dobbs, Rep. Tancredo and their xenophobic friends can calm down and relax.

The writer is a Professor of Economics at the George Washington University.



Anchor Babies
Of course this doesn't include the anchor babies being born in the USA.

What are the fertility rates of illegal aliens from Mexico?

I don't disagree that as the economies improve in the Mexico and points south that fewer babies will be born, but that is no reason to ignore immigration laws.

What should be of most concern regarding 'fertility' rates is how many muslims are being born.

And as a side, the reason polygamy was encouraged in the past was to increase the population.

With homosexual marriage 'legal', polygamists and every other " 'ist " will be wanting their 'rights' recognized.

And a final point, liberals who promote abortion on demand shoule be concerned about population politics.

I will start by saying...
that the US will survive, and assimilate, the influx of people from south of the border. We have had massive waves of people enter our country before and it took several decades to assimilate them. It will happen the same way.

That being said, the number one important issue is with protecting our borders and enforcing our laws. I really don't care if you allow anyone who is here already to stay. Just build a wall and enforce border integrity.

Or, in my perfect world, we just offer the individual Mexican states the opportunity to become a state in our Union.

The babies are all being born on the US side of the border
The birth rate for Mexicans is declining in Mexico because the pregnant women are crossing the border in droves to give birth in the US. Hola, welfare! Adios to current American taxpayers drema of ever getting any social security.








A good point but...
...I'm getting truly sick of hearing people reflexively assume racism on the issue. I have a problem with illegal immigration because I came in after waiting in line and doing it the right way. Secondly, illegal immigrants capital flight $22 billion to Mexico alone each year; that's money not kept in our economy.

This second point is the main reason for the Mexican government is pushing on this issue. That capital has been keeping the Mexican economy afloat, bilges full, for decades.

The usual cry is that illegals are damaging the Social Security and Medicare systems (something hard to be responsible for, when the government is doing such a bang up job of destroying these dinosauric programs.) The liberal/libertarian response is "they paid taxes", which is utter tripe. I live in a high-illegal area -- these people are paid under the table. No records. No taxes. The few operating in the shadows with fake SSNs are committing yet another crime -- paying in or no, they are not eligible for the programs.

The real issue with this isn't the immigrants anymore. It's the utter unresponsiveness of the Senate to the wishes of the people. While that would have been appropriate when they were appointed officials, representing state interests, the Progressives made these elected offices, directly representing the people. When 22% approve of the bill, and the response is as heated as it is now, it is unconscionable that the people are simply ignored.

This seems to be the usual reaction with the people that I know who oppose the bill...and surprisingly, I can't seem to find a one that does, on either side of the political divide. Including the Hispanics I know.

The cry of racism is a cheap shot and damages an otherwise excellent article. I'd suggest an edit by the author.


Why is "that population" different from any other? Considering I have known a great many Mexicans who already have assimilated I would have to disagree. A good number have stated their strong opposition to amnesty and their strong support of making English the official language. They jumped through the hoops to make it here. Why do these lawbreakers get the free ride?

In certain neighborhoods and towns I have seen there are strong ethnic heritages that are still celebrated. One can be Mexican, Italian, Polish, or Norwegian and still be an upstanding, patriotic American.

Racists Talk Nonsense About "we should worry how many muslims being born" when we should worry about
Racists talk nonsense about Americans worrying about how many muslims are being born. That's utter sick racism and since the poster talks that crap non-stop we know she is sick inside and loves to parade it around.

Americans should worry about educating our kids to scoff and laugh at racists like Marjoe; she deserves it!!

I worry about how a person so ridiculous as Marjoe isn't in some institution and on heavy psych meds.....Oh that's right she is in some institution and self-medicating on booze, pills and numbness. Otherwise she couldn't expose such sick crap thinking about Muslim. Honey you're more a threat to America than "terrorist" Muslims are.

You and your kind are why America is down the tubes!!

standard liberal line, anyone who says something I don't like, is a racist
and to think that he/she/it wants to put marjon (can't even spell the name right) on meds.

Probably another case of projection.

Well maybe not racism but...
Racism may be the wrong word to use, but xenophobia is correct. Seriously I don't see how Mexican citizens are inherently different than American citizens. People from both countries should be allowed to live and work with each other without government limits.

The fundamental issue is individual freedom.

"live and work with each other without government limits."
You also mean US citizens should be able to travel, buy propery and do business in Mexico just as they would in the USA?

Any comment that the Spanish name of a popular ethnic political group is "The Race"?

So race seems to matter to Mexicans.

Calling people names
Dear Mr. Dunn

I am deeply offended by the implication included in your article that anyone that disagrees with the idea of giving American citizenship to illegal aliens is a xenophobe. It must be pleasant to be able to dismiss the rational arguments of people who disagree with you as a form of racism. The failure is not on the part of illegal aliens, but rather the U.S. government, to control our southern border. Who could possibly blame someone for seeking a better life elsewhere. I might be more responsive to accepting latino immigration if everyone else in the world had the same access. They don't. I see the future of America as a melting pot. Many people coming together to form a single people. What I fear is a mosaic. Diverse groups of people not unified by their shared beliefs and experiences, but rather competing for who controls the rest. I look around the world and see how well that works. The Balkins, Iraq, Canada are all plagued with ethnic violence or sepratist movements. The only place with large diverse populations that ever made it work were either very repressive governments, and the U.S. , and we are in the process of giving that up. Simply because I want the world to be a more peaceful place, you label me a xenophobe. I certainly believe that after we have gained control of who is in this country, increased numbers of immigrants is desireable. They should be picked according to who benefits this country the most. I prefer discrimination. Based on the principle of value added. I could care less where they come from.

Johnny Dunn
Sardis, Ohio

Ad hominem
I've slung a lot of crap at socialists/liberals/progressives et al., but only because I can't fathom why the sweeping failure of their ideas in fact hasn't gotten through to them (I find this really bizarre). On the other hand, Socialists/liberals/progressives et al. are rarely satisfied by attacking conservative ideas, but must also attack conservatives personally as being evil, racist, greedy, heartless and cruel. Left speech is hate speech. This is why dialog with the left is rarely productive or rewarding.

Moreover, this new feature of American political dialog awakens the hope that since left speech is hate speech, the table has turned and the left have become yesterday's Birchers. You gotta love history when it's so pleasingly karmic.

Please use lower case. It's easier on the eyes, and bad form to use all caps.


IMO Economic growth is what is important
Judging by the current rate of immigration from southern Italy I think that even a slow rate of economic growth in Mexico will lead to an end to mass emigration from Mexico. If you look at the case of southern Italy It seems that the relative difference between the 2 countries is not so important it is absolute poverty that drives emigration from places like Mexico.

Well... about they are different because they are NOT American citizens. There are certain obligations to being a citizen, one of which is to wait your turn if you are note YET a citizen. To jump in front of people that are following the rules is certainly unAmerican.

Furthermore, as Americans, we have a right to not let our economy be diluted by low-skilled laborers that may well take jobs away from Americans. The wages will rise until the demand is filled, unless low-wage foreigners fill the demand. That is why businesses support the amnesty and guest worker bills.

The issue is NOT individual freedom, but who deserves American rights in America. One who crosses our border illegally does not. We throw criminals in jail in this country, we don't reward them with citizenship!!


"We throw criminals in jail "
Mexico shoots at people crossing their southern border.

Stop the corruption
If the USA ignores its laws,it starts down the same corrupt path that plagues most turd world countries, rampant corruption.

Stop the corruption and the economies will grow much faster.

slight addtion to Marjon :)
Mexico shoots at people crossing their southern border...unless they bribe the guards and say, "I'm just passing through to Yanqui Land!"

Try that in Mexico
Here’s what the Mexican Constitution has to say about immigration to Mexico:
Immigrants and foreign visitors are banned from public political discourse.
Immigrants and foreigners are denied certain basic property rights.
Immigrants are denied equal employment rights.
Immigrants and naturalized citizens will never be treated as real Mexican citizens.
Immigrants and naturalized citizens are not to be trusted in public service.
Immigrants and naturalized citizens may never become members of the clergy.
Private citizens may make citizens arrests of lawbreakers (i.e., illegal immigrants) and hand them to the authorities.
Immigrants may be expelled from Mexico for any reason and without due process.

Racist Card played once again.
I do wish people would THINK instead of spewing for their programming.
It is NOT racist to want to protect you society.
It is NOT racist to want to have a place where your children can live.
Obviously you have not traveled anywhere in the world and you surely are clueless as to why many nations are at best “third world” nations. IF you had traveled to South America for example, you would have had the “men” tell you that if you have not sired “at least TEN children, you are not a man”. And don’t give me another Racist reply to that on, I heard that repeated numerous times. Granted, it was just an excuse for little boys to use to put another notch in their gun belt, but the result was overpopulation to the point that the women were hanging from ropes on the mountainside to have a place to grow food.
Can't happen?
Ever heard of Lebanon?
That WAS a Christian nation and WAS called the "Jewel of the Mediterranean" and WAS considered a "must see" for tourists.
Do you want to visit Lebanon now?
That turnaround only took 20 years.
DO go to a few of the "third world" countries and spend enough time there to figure out what happened.

Automatic “citizenship”
Automatic “citizenship” was a piece of legislation written and enacted by a California judge.
For those who do not have a clue about what a judge can and can’t do, it is illegal to legislate from the bench.
My grandparents played a part in the original bill which applied to those who were legally in this country and were legally finishing up their paperwork and exams to legally become citizens, but in the meantime gave birth to a child.
My grandmother and my dad had to go back home and reapply.
Seven years later my grandmother along with my dad were allowed back into the country to finish her citizenship application so that my dad and she could become citizens.
That law DID NOT state that just because a woman had a child in this country, that the child was a citizen in spite of the fact that the mother was here illegally.
Look at it this way:
If any nation wanted to take over this nation, all they would have to do is send in millions of pregnant women to give birth here and thereby that nation could easily take over this nation because the child would then (according to the way the "law" is now applied) sponsor it's parents who would then work to overthrow our form of government.
Amazing how silent the ZPG people are. Wonder what happened to them?

Got to take issue with John Minn
Mr. Minn:

Section 1 of The Fourteenth Amendment says, in part,

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

That is far from a "piece of legislation enacted by a federal judge." As you accurately state, judges do not have the power to legislate, and this is not "legislation:" it is an amendment to the Constitution.

re: marjon
"You also mean US citizens should be able to travel, buy propery and do business in Mexico just as they would in the USA?"

Yes. I also mean that. This integration is what we should all be working towards. Not the divisivness of the past.

re: well...
" about they are different because they are NOT American citizens." - Well, our ancestors weren't American citizens either. And at least mine came before any limits on immigration. OMG, whats that you say? There was a time when America had OPEN borders? And NO restrictions on immigration? Yes. And it would be good if we could return to our roots of liberty.
"we have a right to not let our economy be diluted by low-skilled laborers that may well take jobs away from Americans." - That's your position. Mine is I have a right to buy from whomever I want in order to get the best deal for myself. You're basically saying that all working Americans must pay more for their goods and services (a real-wage decrease) to protect the jobs of the few who are unable to compete with foreign labor.All issues are about freedom. We're not the Soviets. We don't have guaranteed jobs for life. And we're better off for it.

That is exactly why we should repeal our corrupt immigration quota laws. The sooner we can integrate with Mexico, the sooner millions of people will be better off.

mexican situation
Some people claim that if you don't let all those millions of Mexicans in, then there might be a revolution down there if conditions are so miserable. But my angle would be that sometimes countries need revolutions to sort themselves out from such bad governance. So let's say the US got serious, really stopped them from coming in, kicing out the illegals, then no billions of remittances going down there, then social upset, revolution. Maybe then they would get a clue and model themselves after the best practices of say; hong kong, singapore, switzerland, chile,etc. and end up with a decent country for a change. Anyway it's just another phoney issue.

If you can spot a case in History where infants have overthrown a government, let us know.

Americans born in this country are just that... Americans. Not Mexicans. So the whole argument unravels.

Employers might have to start hiring adults instead of teenagers...
So there'll soon be a shortage of Mexican teenagers that cross the border looking for work. All that will mean is that maybe employers will have to hire older adults to do work they previously only considered teenagers for! Maybe that means when they say: "We can't find any Americans to do the work." what they REALLY mean is that: "We can't find any American TEENAGERS to do the work so we have to import Mexican TEENAGERS to do it." What's their problem with hiring the older adults to work? People over 25 might be better employees than they were when in their teens. A teenager should have some time to enjoy being a teenager before being expected to work like the adults!

We would have to annex Mexico for any 'integration'...
NAFTA screwed up Mexico just as much as it screwed up the USA or there wouldn't be THAT MANY Mexicans coming here to find work! There used to be a few Mexicans that came here during harvest season & went home for the Winter. There're WAY more Mexicans coming now whether they think they will find jobs or not! Something has to be REALLY BAD in Mexico or there would be much fewer Mexicans travelling to this country...

good point Cooltruth
Great comment. Americans seems to not like the idea of older people contributing to society by continueing to work long. In other countries, it's common to see old guys working as busboys in McDonalds for example. Then Americans too think it's OK to dole out welfare so that people have a free meal ticket, thus don't have to work, thus import illegals. Another angle too is that Americans seem to think these days that it's beneath the dignity of their own teenagers to work; say part time after school, the way they used to. So between those three groups of non-workers, no wonder they have so many illegals about.

irony re; 'a fence won't keep them out'
WE often see that kind of comment when some propose building a fence to keep criminals out. But the irony is; look at the fence in the graphic accompanying this ariticle above. It's the type of fence you see around a garden say, that anyone can snipe thru with a small tool, or climb over. We also sometimes see a fence on TV with the illegals climbing over with no apparent trouble at all. That could be because in that style of fence, the designers have provided a convenient series of horizontal ridges, like a ladder, so people can just climb up! How dumb is that? But are there any fences in the world that really keep people out, even armed terrorists? Yes, the one the Israelis build, and the US could use as a role model. It's an effective barrier though, instead of the American 'symbolic' ones though, so it won't be used.

Child labor
You state: "A teenager should have some time to enjoy being a teenager before being expected to work like the adults!"
Why? At whose expense?
The sooner teens start working (even if part time), the sooner they become good employees. Age alone does not bring wisdom.
One of the big causes of problems in this country is child labor laws. Youngsters who are forbidden by law from getting jobs turn to theft to fill their desires. Youngsters who would work on harvests or other menial tasks (involving badly needed exercise) are forbidden by law from taking jobs now filled by illegal aliens.

PRI Socialism is what you're missing
Long term socialist policies hollow out economic potential and create a situation that is not only objectively bad but is largely hidden from the populace. People in the Soviet bloc new that things were bad but how bad only became clear after the USSR fell apart and COMECOM died.

Mexico's PRI went through a similar long-term decline of Mexico and it is only relatively recently that the hard job of turning things around has been started by others not married to the early 20th century. Mexico's reforms, just like E. Europe's reforms, results in a short to mid term emigration spike. We're riding that out now. If Mexico can continue progressing, things will get better.

But we still have a border problem that needs addressing. We still need to enforce the law and write new ones to suit us better.

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