New items in my Mexican village

As many of my readers know, I visit a small Mexican village, San Agustin Oapan, one or twice every year. This pueblo in Guerrero has about 1500 people, most of whom farm corn and paint for a living. You’ll hear more when my book on the place comes out next year, from University of Michigan Press. In the meantime, here are the new items I have noticed in the village this year:

1. Apples

2. Green beans

3. A much improved road. A four hour trip now takes less than an hour and a half, at least if the rains permit. This makes an especially big difference if you have to take your kid to the doctor.

4. Stoves. They were once a rarity, now they are commonplace. It takes the fun out of watching people cook for you, but hey that is progress.

5. Small shops with wrapped items from the larger city of Iguala. Shampoo and band-aids, for instance, are now easy to find.

6. The number of “retail” (and I use that word cautiously) watermelon sellers has gone from one to at least three.

7. The number of pigs has doubled over the last five years, though not always to the benefit of the town streets.

As far as I can tell, most of this does not show up in the growth statistics for Mexico. No one (except for yours truly) comes to the place to count anything. Most of the transactions occur in black or grey markets. And even if the data were recorded, using market prices to measure underestimates the benefits from a sudden introduction of new commodities (in essence the price is falling from infinity to a market level, and the first consumers at the new price might value the item at more than a small amount above the observed price).

It is commonly the case that consumption statistics, when we have them, measure changes in income better than do income statistics.

Globalization does not make everyone better off, but its beneficial effects are commonly underestimated, and undermeasured by available statistics.


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