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Thursday, June 28, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

GWU economist Robert Dunn writes in TCS today about How the Mexican Immigration Problem Will Solve Itself.

By this he means that the demographic trends mean that there will be a smaller pool of young Mexicans looking for jobs in the future, and therefore less immigration to the United States:

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.

[...]

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.

It is an interesting point and worth thinking about as we try to make assessments about policy.

He also makes a salient point about US influence over Mexican culture in the piece, which I also commented upon over at this post OTB. (Although I am not sure I buy Dunn’s statement that US influence over Mexico is what had led to the decline in fertility rates in Mexico).

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4 Responses to “On Immigration and Demographics”

  1. MSS Says:

    This is far outside of my expertise, but isn’t the decline in fertility rates (strange term, that) as countries develop and urbanize one of the most well established truisms of demographics?

    Less need for family farm labor, less risk of children’s death, increasing secularization, more opportunities for woman in the workplace, later marriage, and more access to and education about contraception. These are all hallmarks of developing/developed economies and all point towards having fewer children.

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    Yes, you are quite correct–more urbanization and development means less children (due to all of the factors you note).

    And I have always thought it an odd term as well.

  3. Honza P Says:

    I though the biill dead a’fore they reintroduced it.

    See also here http://prosandcons.us/?p=5235, for some other material, and an immigratin aside, that you may really, reall like – or amybe you alreadyt knew all their p[ositions, in which case I apologize.

    The demographic angle is truuly fascinating. Thanks Doc.

  4. Dave Schuler Says:

    It seems obvious to me but I didn’t see it mentioned in the article. Women of childbearing age are also the most hireable and, consequently, the most likely to emigrate. When as many women of childbearing age move from Mexico to the U. S. as have over the last decades, it perforce reduces the fertility rate.


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