Human and Physical Infrastructure Along the U.S. Border with Mexico
The population of the U.S. border with Mexico has several characteristics that differentiate it from the rest of the nation, and that help to explain its lower than average personal incomes per capita. Growth of the population has been far above the national average and has led to a series of challenges for policymakers. Meeting the challenges will help determine whether or not the U.S. border region will continue to be one of the poorer areas of the country. The population along the U.S. border will continue to be one of the poorer areas of the country. The population along the U.S. border is heavily concentrated in a few metropolitan areas, and with socio-demographic characteristics that cause incomes to be 87 percent of the national average, or 65 percent of the county of San Diego is excluded. Border residents have higher youth dependency ratios and lower labor force participation rates, both of which reduce the share of the population that contributes to income. In addition, they have lower levels of schooling, and a larger share of the population that has not mastered English. In theory, the ability of border communities to serve as gateways for U.S. trade with Mexico increases incomes and opportunities, and while there is some evidence to support this, the lack of physical infrastructure for a smoother, more rapid flow of commercial trade and personal border crossings, constrains the benefits from increased trade flows. Unmet needs for additional infrastructure are likely to grow as Mexico is currently investing heavily in its seaports and railroad networks in order to increase the flow trade originating in Mexico and the Pacific, and as environmental infrastructure investment has lagged far behind the needs projected during the pre-NAFTA debates.