Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Human Development and the US-Mexico Border

Andrew Sullivan links to a map from the 2009 Human Development Report, which uses HDI, the Human Development Index, as a measure of the general level of development for jurisdictions on both sides of the US-Mexico border:

us mexico border hdi map

As Steven Taylor notes:
What is interesting is that the lowest HDI county on the US side (Starr County Texas) is higher than the highest HDI municipality in Mexico (i.e., Mexicali).

This is, of course, likely not a shock to anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the situation. Still, it continues to underscore that fundamental aspect of this situation: it is the disparity of wealth between the two countries that continues to create the synergy of migration over the border. As I keep saying: any policy that ignores this fact will fail. As such, calls for massive deportations or that assumes it is possible to stop migration over the border is naught more than fantasy. “Seal the border!” is a slogan, not a viable policy.
That's true. It also points up what ought to be an obvious truth about immigration from Mexico and other relatively poor countries to the United States: it is comprised mostly of individuals who are driven by lack of economic opportunity to leave their homeland in order to exchange their labor for money. That many people feel so threatened by this class of people, which is already among the most powerless in society, has always baffled me.

Also: as long-time readers of this blog know, I like nothing better than using HDI for various countries as a frame of reference for apprehending the significance of HDI ratings for various sub-national jurisdictions! And so, here are selected HDI-comparable nations (based on this table (pdf) from the same organization) for each of the five HDI ranges indicated on the map (with countries listed in ascending order of HDI):

.636-.700 - Morocco, Botswana, South Africa, Tajikistan, Vanuatu, Kyrgyzstan, Guatemala, Nicaragua

.701-.765 - Uzbekistan, Honduras, Egypt, Vietnam, Mongolia, Bolivia, Indonesia, Philippines, El Salvador, Algeria, China, Georgia

- Dominican Republic, Jordan, Belize, Tonga, Ukraine, Thailand, Peru, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Serbia, Malaysia, Venezuela

- Panama, Bulgaria, Oman, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Argentina, Lithuania, Chile, Hungary, Malta

.896-.950 - Czech Republic, Portugal, UAE, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Israel, Germany, UK, Italy, Belgium, United States


La Migra said...

Why are people threatened by this class of people? So you are proposing the US just open the gate to all?

Anonymous said...

Why does it baffle you that SOME people would feel threatened? A very ignorant and divisive statement at best. What would be your solution to a real issue facing America and ALL of that dying geographical collective known as Western Europe? Or is it just easier for you to throw your hands in the air and say, "oh golly me. People are mean".

spread eagle beagle said...

I'm thinking Chachy's solution would have something to do with the redistibution of wealth... someone else's wealth that is. And that does not make me a racist.

Anonymous said...

"That many people feel so threatened by this class of people, which is already among the most powerless in society, has always baffled me."

Then maybe you should do some research, so you cam stop being baffled.

Anonymous said...

I'd hardly say they were powerless. The have the ACLU, the Democrats(albiet, only for votes), the, as Chomsky would say 'leftist elites', MALDEF, the media, and a host of others looking after them. The issue is about enforcing federal laws already on the books. If you want open borders, get rid of those laws. As a Republic, states have a right to enforce federal laws that the federal government won't. Am I getting off topic? BTW, open, honest disscusions on issues like this is extremely healthy.

Totally and Completely Resigned said...

Does this map tell us anything we don't already know? Sure, it's a sad plight (and an awesome one at that) but thus is the history of man. Some fresh solutions would be a little bit more uplifting than this regurgitated Christian-like armageddon bullshit I see peppering your blog. Chachy, what do your wrists look like? Fuck, man.

Chachy said...

What, no one wants to talk HDI comps?

Look, when I say I'm "baffled," I'm not saying I'm baffled by any particular policy prescription. Personally, I would favor loosening restrictions on legal immigration while tightening enforcement on employer hiring of illegal immigrants; but whatever. I'm not talking about policy, and I'm not baffled simply by the view that immigration ought to be restricted.

What baffles me is a certain nativist/xenophobic hostility towards (illegal, but sometimes all) immigrants that seems prominent, though surely not universal, in anti-immigrant activism. Arizona's SB 1070 was a case in point - it was pretty much designed to make life hard for immigrants, including legal ones. A more general case in point would be those ubiquitous signs you see at anti-illegal immigrant rallies: "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?" and variations on that theme. To characterize people who, again, are driven by lack of economic opportunity to leave their homeland in order to exchange their labor for money as simply 'illegal,' full stop, end of discussion, is to reduce those people to mere excluded objects. It is dehumanizing, and bespeaks an inability to appreciate their experience from their point of view. But once you do make that fairly minimal empathic leap of imagining what life is like for someone in that condition, then I don't see how you can think of such people as inherently dangerous or criminal or a threat to the fabric of the nation or anything like that.

La Migra said...

The idea of one illegal immigrant is not intimidating. However, there are several inherent dangers to this "class" of people. You are obviously from the north.

1) They are a huge burden on the health care system. Everyone else pays more because they don't. And they end up in hospitals a plenty.

2)While they are not all criminals, they are breaking the law by coming here illegally.

And even more unfortunately, their former country is a huge stinking pile ridden with Cartels and a corrupt Gov.

While Jose may just want to cut your grass, Pablo just murdered a sheriff to sell his. In TX border towns sheriffs have been killed and their replacements killed a few days later. 1000s of people have been killed on our side of the border. While this might be conflating a couple of different issues can you be non-discriminatory (good illegal vs. bad illegal)in ILLEGAl immigration or general border protection?

Noone is that worried about Jose cutting the's how he got here that worries everyone.

3)The "they do jobs Americans won't" arguement is ridiculous. They are being exploited for slave labor in our country. Our employers don't want to pay fair wages, payroll taxes and break the law. This has somehow been rationalized that this is just their first step toward the American dream and it's better than where they came from.

But in reality, they can get gunned down and have too many kids in our bad neighborhoods now.

I have one living in my condo assoc with this much older more wealthy chickenhawk. I'm not sure if he is really gay or he just needed a place to live that bad. He knocked on my door to report someone had hit my car and drove off. And I thought to myself, this poor illegal who gets old wrinkly balls slapping up against his ass isn't such a bad guy.

And indvidually not all of them are. However, this "class" of people is something people can be rightfully threatend by.

Dohsan said...

Threatened only because of ignorance and fear of difference. The hard facts are that illegal immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take (for one, they pay FICA while not taking SS).

Keeping out illegals also won't help you nativists keep/find jobs, so long as there is free flow of trade & capital and we don't invest in education. You'll just make more of the US look like (very white, very poor) Appalachia instead.

Gus Snarp said...

Wow, and I thought the global warming posts brought them out.

I say: Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!

And Legalize pot while you're at it, it's the cartels' most profitable product, without it they will dry up.

Chris said...

La Migra, can you provide a link for the multiple Texas sheriff murders? I couldn't find anything using Google.

It's really not surprising that the HDI is so different from the other side of an international border. I bet there are other examples out there. Might be interesting to see them on the Map Scroll. :)

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that immigrants, and illegal immigrants in particular, fill jobs which Americans, especially Americans who are legally entitled to various welfare benefits (housing, medical, income, food stamps, unemployment, etc.) would never deign to fill. For the most part, illegal immigrants fill jobs and perform services that Americans would not let their teenage child consider filling. Furthermore, these are services that the American population demands in order to maintain the level of wealth and ease that is available to most Americans. This includes cheaper food prices, services, labor, etc.
These immigrants, illegal or no, cannot be said to threaten American jobs, and there has yet to be any significant research that quantifies the general cost benefit of immigration, in terms of increasing Americans' wealth, versus whatever drain on welfare services such immigrants pose.
If anyone wants to persuasively argue against the benefits of immigrant labor, at all levels of the economy, including illegal immigrant labor, that argument cannot be considered credible unless such an opponent to immigration is willing to truly boycott all of the benefits of immigrant labor they currently enjoy.

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