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Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Growth, Development, and Quality of Life

By Joan B. Anderson and James Gerber

Publication Year: 2008

The U.S. and Mexican border regions have experienced rapid demographic and economic growth over the last fifty years. In this analysis, Joan Anderson and James Gerber offer a new perspective on the changes and tensions pulling at the border from both sides through a discussion of cross-border economic issues and thorough analytical research that examines not only the dramatic demographic and economic growth of the region, but also shifts in living standards, the changing political climate, and environmental pressures, as well as how these affect the lives of people in the border region. Creating what they term a Border Human Development Index, the authors rank the quality of life for every U.S. county and Mexican municipio that touches the 2,000-mile border. Using data from six U.S. and Mexican censuses, the book adeptly illustrates disparities in various aspects of economic development between the two countries over the last six decades. Anderson and Gerber make the material accessible and compelling by drawing an evocative picture of how similar the communities on either side of the border are culturally, yet how divided they are economically. The authors bring a heightened level of insight to border issues not just for academics but also for general readers. The book will be of particular value to individuals interested in how the border between the two countries shapes the debates on quality of life, industrial growth, immigration, cross-border integration, and economic and social development.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

The regions along the border between the United States and Mexico have experienced rapid demographic and economic growth since 1950. Growth has proceeded on its own terms, almost without regard for the ups and downs in relations between the two nations, and for both nations it shows the increasing influence of factors on the other side of the border. In as ...

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Introduction. The United States–Mexico Border

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pp. 1-12

Communities along the United States–Mexico border have a great deal in common, including a shared history, two deserts, rapid population growth, thriving tourism, and deepening economic integration. Day-today life for people living along the border is shaped by these common elements, plus the distinctive feature of an international border that divides families, friends, and businesses. The challenges posed by an international ...

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Chapter 1. Along the United States–Mexico Border

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pp. 13-34

For most of its nearly 2,000 miles, the United States–Mexico border is a permeable barrier of desert rock and sand. In a few places urban landscapes appear, with multiple fences and controlled gates of entry, while along the eastern half of the border the open space is divided by the Rio Grande. Through most of its western half, the boundary between national ...

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Chapter 2. Population Growth and Migration

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pp. 35-62

Oscar’s parents are from Aguascalientes, in central Mexico. They migrated to Los Angeles in the 1960s, and that is where Oscar and one of his sisters were born. After a few years of trying to get comfortable in a sprawling American city, the family decided to move back to Mexico, where they felt more at home and could raise their family in the traditions they knew ...

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Chapter 3. U.S. Border States and Border Relations

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pp. 63-79

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed and ratified in 1993 and implemented on Janu ary 1, 1994. Along the border there was a flurry of activity as state and local chambers of commerce, business groups, and public officials began to prepare for a more open Mexican economy. On the U.S. side, fears of competition from relatively low-wage ...

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Chapter 4. Trade, Investment, and Manufacturing

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pp. 80-102

Transportation costs play a major role in both domestic and international commerce. In general, water transport is usually the cheapest way to move goods over long distances, and air transport is most suitable for high-value, low-bulk items that need to reach their markets in the shortest possible time, yet the vast majority of U.S.-Mexico trade is hauled on the ground ...

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Chapter 5. The Environment

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pp. 103-116

The maquiladora boom of the 1980s and 1990s and the accompanying population growth in the Mexican border region dramatically increased strains on the environment. The direct impacts of increased manufacturing activity include the generation of toxic wastes, chemical spills, pressures on water and wastewater treatment, air emissions, and other side effects ...

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Chapter 6. Formal and Informal Labor

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pp. 117-138

Jorge and Gabriel are from different generations, but they each view the border as a place of opportunity. Jorge left his home town, Torre

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Chapter 7. Income, Equity, and Poverty

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pp. 139-160

One notable feature of the U.S.-Mexico border is that it is the point of contact between two large nations with very different income levels. The income gap between the two sides of the border is so large that it is difficult to identify any other countries in the world sharing a common border that have income differences as large as those between the United States ...

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Chapter 8. Living Standards

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pp. 161-188


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Chapter 9. Human Development in the Border Region

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pp. 189-208

Nearly everyone would agree that quality-of-life improvements and human development depend on more than just material wealth or income. As economists and social scientists, we would like to affirm this point while at the same time maintaining standards for measuring human development and welfare that are comparable across countries and through ...

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Chapter 10. The Future of United States–Mexico Border Regions

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pp. 209-226

The economic dynamism of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands has attracted a steady stream of migrants, both national and international, who in turn have generated more economic growth while creating a rich multicultural stew of music, language, food, architecture, and other artifacts of daily life. People and customs from Mexico and the United States fit comfortably ...


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pp. 227-244


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pp. 245-258


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pp. 245-275

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794689
E-ISBN-10: 0292794681
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292717183
Print-ISBN-10: 0292717180

Page Count: 285
Illustrations: 29 b&w illus., 49 figures, 3 maps, 22 tables
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 234182750
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexican-American Border Region -- Economic conditions.
  • Mexican-American Border Region -- Social conditions.
  • Labor supply -- Mexican-American Border Region.
  • Migrant labor -- Mexican-American Border Region.
  • Industrial clusters -- Mexican-American Border Region.
  • United States -- Commerce -- Mexico.
  • Mexico -- Commerce -- United States.
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