Mexican immigration

Here is my New York Times column; the topic is familiar but the slant is new: I consider the problematic incentives for Mexican education.  Here is the beginning of the problem:

A high school diploma brings higher wages in Mexico,
but in the United States the more educated migrants do not earn
noticeably more than those who have less education. Education does not
much raise the productivity of hard physical labor. The result is that
the least educated Mexicans have the most reason to cross the border.
In addition, many Mexicans, knowing they may someday go to the United
States, see less reason to invest in education.

Here is another commonly neglected point:

Unfortunately, we cannot expect a wealthier Mexico to resolve migration
problems, at least not within the short- or even medium-run. The
evidence suggests that good times in Mexico give the poor the means to
leave, while keeping the better-educated males at home in good jobs.

Comments

The article does a good job of proposing a theory to blame Mexico's economic and educational problems for helping incubate migration to the
United States. The article attempts to grasp (albiet, a difficult task)em with no easy solutions. As the article states, one cannot shut out illegal immigration without strong financial and social consequences for the U.S.

However, what I would like to have seen the article touch on is the social inequalities prevalent in Mexico. Much like the United States, a large population is systematically discrimmated against, largely poor, rural Mexicans. Mexico is a rich country, with many natural rsources and labor capital. However, the wealth largely stays with within the higher classes, largely descendants of Mexico's Spanish colonizers. Mixed and and especially indigenous Mexicans have never benefitted from the Spanish invasion, with many never learning to Speak Spanish properly, due to the lack of educational and cultural assimilation in Mexico. The problem is that Mexico's social system offers no real advancement opportunities, in part because, as Mr. Cowen alluded to, educational opportunities.

If the United States government had serious intentions to address the illegal immigration issues, they would, as Mr. Cowen stated, look into Mexico's interiror issues, and invest in its neighbor. Not so much economically, but politically. Instead of supporting business conservatives, the United States should support social liberals and economic liberals, who want to provide the basics and means to get ahead for Mexicans. Alternative President-elect Lopez Obrador, who "lost" the election in July by less than 2 percent, sees illegal immigraiton to teh North as Mexico's shame. He wants to see Mexicans prosper in their own country. Conservatives, such as the PAN and PRI, would rather see poor, less educated "brown" Mexicans out of their country, but still see their remittances.

Anti-immigration proponents in the United States should look at long-term solutions, which include helping build Mexico's economic infrastructure to be more socially responsible. For years, the United States has helped foster the types of social inequalities in Mexico and Latin America by supporting conservative, fascit governments, who tend to oppress the poorer, indigenous masses, who in turn seek out a better way of life in the United States. The United States should put pressure on Mexico's Calderon to be more socially responsible, and provide better educational and financial opportunities for poor Mexicans.

It's unclear to me how requiring higher level of education will curb the demand for currently illegal Mexican labor if the current American labor market doesn't see the need for higher education levels. Such a restriction wouldn't seem to have much effect on illegal immigration since it doesn't reflect the market's demand.

This is one of the problems with American immigration policy now. The US has relatively high minded goals that a large segment of the labor market simply doesn't meet: a appetite for labor where education level is largely irrelevant.

What a terrific article!

Tyler writes:

"In contrast to the men, female arrivals from Mexico still have above-average levels of education for their gender. A woman who migrates is most likely to have eight to nine years of education."

Eight to nine years of education? And that's supposed to be the good news? Oh, man ...

"At least some of these workers do have good educations, even college educations"

The majority of people with college degrees in Mexico make a lot more than $12 an hour, and for college educated mexicans it's not so hard to get actual visas into America, like I have done.

What a good article! I don't know the latest stats, but in 1999, when I moved back from Mexico after seven years there, 75% of students were leaving school after fourth grade. My Mexican neighbors said it was because books were too expensive in public schools, and there were so many days off for holidays and pageant rehearsals their kids weren't getting much education. And, the village school had just allowed sex education classes, but only for sixth graders, the minority still in school. So poor families continue adding far more people than the nation's labor market can absorb.
Good treatment of a huge, complicated, issue.

An oft-overlooked cause of Mexico's problems is their public education system. The far-left teacher's union is all powerful. It is high in pay (at least as a % of the total education budget), and shamefully low in productivity. Mexican families with any money at all resort to private schools. Time to throw the whole system out and go to vouchers.

Tyler, you tell us that "a [Mexican] high school diploma brings higher wages in Mexico, but in the United States the more educated [Mexican] migrants do not earn noticeably more than those who have less education."

You then write that many Mexicans wish to migrate to the USA, so they neglect education in Mexico because it will not reward them in the USA.

You propose to relieve two problems inside Mexico:

1. "[M]any Mexicans, knowing they may someday go to the
United States, see less reason to invest in education."

2. "[T]he migration-driven gender imbalance of rural Mexico. It is common for villages to have many unmarried young women, but virtually no young men. The women who are married often go without their husbands for years. The remaining men are more likely to treat their women badly, knowing they can always find another partner."

You propose to relieve only one problem inside the
USA: "Less-educated migrants are more likely to bring crime
and social problems, and they are less likely to ssimilate."

To fix the USA-side problem, You suggest we "tighten the
border." Then you go on to suggest that we admit
more-educated Mexicans legally, to give Mexicans an incentive to obtain more education in Mexico.

Well, if we only tighten the border (that is, exclude most would-be Mexican immigrants), that, by your reasoning, would solve the Mexican problems you identify. We wouldn't need to admit any Mexicans, high-schooled or otherwise.

Suppose we end most Mexican immigration. Mexicans will discover greater incentives to education (Problem 1), because (as you told us), educated Mexicans earn more in Mexico.

When we end most Mexican immigration, Mexican women will be able to marry Mexican men without following them North (Problem 2). The men will even be better-educated thanks to the shift in incentives.

By your own analysis, there is no reason to admit any significant number of Mexicans to the USA. When we admit more, we admit "crime and social problems" with them. When we admit more, we reduce their incentive to assimilate (since they can live in Mexican-immigrant barrios, and support rent-seeking "community leaders").

There's another reason to close the border. Since doing so would adjust incentives to produce happy, well-educated Mexican couples in Mexico we could then spare American taxpayers the cost of doctoring, educating, policing, and income-supporting those happy Mexican couples and their offspring.

As for giving American employers incentive to upgrade their capital investments to make better use of more educated workers... well, deprived of uneducated Mexicans they would be more likely to make that upgrade and then employ Americans (who are generally "better educated" than Mexican immigrants if only because they are native English speakers).

The far-left teacher's union is all powerful. It is high in pay (at least as a % of the total education budget), and shamefully low in productivity. Mexican families with any money at all resort to private schools. Time to throw the whole system out and go to vouchers.

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