Memo From Middle America (Formerly Known As Memo From Mexico) | Mexico`s Demographic Transition—America`s Opportunity


The past few decades have witnessed a dramatic demographic transformation in the country of Mexico. This transformation constitutes a potential opportunity to bring to an end the era of mass immigration, and specifically mass immigration from Mexico.

It`s an opportunity but by no means a guarantee.  We have to understand what`s going on and take advantage of it.

For years, Mexico has had (and still has) the reputation of a country of families with many children. That used to be true. But, in the words of one Robert Zimmerman, “The Times They are a-Changin`

Mexico`s total fertility rate has plummeted drastically in the past few decades, bringing it down more or less to the same level as that of the U.S.

What is Total Fertility Rate? Here is the explanation of the term, taken from a familiar online encyclopedia.

The total fertility rate (TFR, sometimes also called the fertility rate, period total fertility rate (PTFR) or total period fertility rate (TPFR)) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if (1) she were to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) through her lifetime, and (2) she were to survive from birth through the end of her reproductive life. It is obtained by summing the single-year age-specific rates at a given time…[it]is based on the age-specific fertility rates of women in their “child-bearing years,” which in conventional international statistical usage is ages 15-44 or 15-49… the TFR is a reasonable summary of current fertility levels.

In the 1960s, Mexico had one of the world`s highest rates of population growth. In 1970 a Mexican woman`s fertility rate was over 7 children per woman. That began dropping in the 1970s. By 1990, the figure was 3.3 children. By 2005, according to the World Bank, the figure was 2.1–the same as the U.S. rate.

In my years residing in Mexico, I observed the same phenomenon, among my students` families, among neighbors and among my wife`s relatives.

However, one of my brothers (a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant from a red state) has a large family (eight children at last count). And when he`d visit Mexico, his family was considered a novelty.

So the stereotypical large Mexican family is becoming a thing of the past. Of course, the Mexican population continues to increase, because there are still plenty of women in childbearing age. But younger women aren`t, on average, having many children.

The U.S. Census Bureau (which keeps statistics on foreign countries) estimates that in 2035, Mexico`s population will be 130 million (up from 110 million now) but growing at 0.8% (current rate is 1.1%). Its estimate for Mexico`s population in 2050 is 148 million. If present trends continue, its population will eventually stabilize.

It sounds like an opportunity for us to close the border right now, because Mexico is going to need all those people. In fact, some people are already talking about the eventual aging of the Mexican population.

Some readers will still find all this a little hard to believe. So a little history is in order. Back in 1973, the Mexican government adopted a population control policy, the first Latin American nation to do so.

In early 1974, Mexico`s new Ley General de Población (General Population Law) came into effect. Article 1 of said law declares that “its objective is to regulate the phenomena that affect the population in relation to its size, structure, dynamics and distribution in the national territory…”

Article 3 specifically calls for the government to carry out family planning programs.

Article 5 of The Population Law of 1974 authorized the creation of CONAPO, the acronym for Consejo Nacional De Población (National Population Council), the government bureaucracy entrusted with population policy. According to Article 5, CONAPO`S responsibility is the “demographic planning of the country, with the objective of including the population in the programs of economic and social development that are formulated within the governmental sector and linking their objectives with the necessities posed by the demographic phenomena.”

In a previous Memo from Mexico, I discussed Mexico`s General Population Law as it governs Mexican immigration policy. You can read that article here.

In the 1970s, the newly-formed CONAPO launched its campaign to slow Mexican population growth, through contraceptives and family planning.

(Some of the original development of the birth control pill, by the way, had previously been carried out at the Syntex Laboratories in Mexico City, by Carl Djerassi, George Rozenkranz, and Luis E. Miramontes.)

The decades-long CONAPO campaign to reduce population growth, which continues to this day, has utilized advertisements on TV and radio, billboards, and persuasion in public hospitals to encourage smaller families. Slogans have included  Hay Que Sernos Menos(Let`s Become Fewer), Pocos hijos para Darles Mucho(Fewer Children to Give them More) andLa Familia Pequeña Vive Mejor(The Small Family lives Better).

In the 1970s, the same decade the CONAPO campaign began, Mexican birth rates began to decrease.

Was the decrease in fertility actually caused by the government campaign, or by other socioeconomic factors? After all, Mexicans aren`t usually known for their eagerness to obey the law.

According to one study, Economic Development, Contraception and Fertility Decline in Mexico,  By Jain-Shing A. Chen et al. Journal of Development Studies 26 (17) 408-424, the regular socioeconomic development of Mexico had more to do with the drop in fertility than the government campaign. But whatever the reasons (and social trends usually have several causes), the fertility drop has been a reality.

And not only in Mexico. There has been a decrease in fertility throughout Latin America.

Let me emphasize: the Mexican population is continuing to increase. But it is doing so at a slower rate, and the population is beginning to age.

For example, a CONAPO bulletin from 2008 illustrates how the fertility decrease is showing up in the youngest cohort of the population. In 1990, there were 32.8 million children under 15 years of age. In 2000, that figure had increased to 33.6 million. But by 2008, the number had dropped 6.7%, to 31.4 million. In 2010, CONAPO has projected that the number will drop to 30.5 million.

During coming decades, Mexico faces many adjustments. Demographic change affects the country`s educational system, its workforce and healthcare.

How will Mexico`s demographic transformation—it`s a belated case of what is known as the “demographic transition”–affect immigration?

Robert M. Dunn, Jr., Economics professor at George Washington University, wrote an article entitled Mexican Immigration Will Solve Itself.  (The American, June 29th, 2007). Professor Dunn describes a lifetime fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman as “the break-even point for population stability in developed nations.” He went on:

“If this trend toward fewer children continues, there being no apparent reason for it to cease, the number of young people in the Mexican population will decline significantly just when the number of elderly is rising. As labor markets in Mexico tighten and wage rates rise, far fewer Mexican youngsters will be interested in coming to the United States. Since our baby boomers will be retiring at the same time, we could face a severe labor shortage….The main point for the United States is that we have only a temporary problem with illegal immigration from Mexico. For another decade or a bit more we must attempt to limit such entry, but then the problem will fade like the smile on the Cheshire Cat. Lou Dobbs, Rep. Tancredo and their nationalistic friends can calm down and relax.”

Not so fast there. Border control is still necessary for the foreseeable future, likely for much more than a mere decade. And there`s the question of the illegal alien presence in the U.S. and their citizen children.

But Dowell Myers, another academic, says we don`t even need to control the borders now. He was quoted in a more recent article Mexico`s Shrinking Families Could Cut Flow to U.S. [By Jason Lange, Reuters, February 20, 2009]:

“U.S. authorities are building a 670-mile fence along the border to stop more coming but some researchers say that kind of measure might be overkill. `It`s like building a dike for a flood that might not be there,` said Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.”

Of course, this is silly. We still need that fence on the border, regardless of the current demographic trends in Mexico. But we don`t have to despair—the flood is not, as immigration enthusiasts have long claimed, inevitable and irresistible.

 In fact, another part in Lange`s article puts things in perspective:

“`The demographic change will mean less pressure on people to leave but they`re still going to need good jobs in Mexico,` said Philip Martin, a professor specializing in immigration, farm labor and economic development at the University of California, Davis. Any decline in immigration from Mexico will be slow because leaving for America is so customary in towns like Jalpa that many teenagers hardly look for work before shipping out. Nearly everyone has kin in the United States, making it easier to settle and find a job. Hundreds of thousands could still cross the border every year for years to come, demographers say. “

Mexican emigration to the U.S. is not, and has never been, solely driven by population factors. Proof of that is the fact in the 1960s, when Mexican population growth was much higher, emigration was much lower.

Mexican emigration to the U.S. is driven by a combination of factors on both sides of the border – economic, social, cultural, legal and political factors. Part of it is sheer inertia and force of habit—Mexicans have become accustomed to emigrating to the U.S. and many American employers have grown accustomed to cheap labor.

In a 2003 article I cited a 2001 CONAPO analysis [PDF] which projected that Mexican emigration to the U.S. would not diminish until at least 2031, even with a decrease in the birth rate and an improved Mexican economy.

In 2007, CONAPO said Mexican emigration would continue at the same level for another 15 years (until 2022). And a UN estimate released in 2007 projects that in 2050, Mexico will still be sending out 306,000 emigrants annually.

But none of this is written in stone. It depends on what we do.

In the U.S., Hispanic activists, Big Government social engineers, and cheap labor profiteers all want it to continue, for various, even contradictory, motives. Mexico`s political and economic elite promote it because they see it as in their interest to dump their potentially troublesome poor on the American taxpayer.

The U.S. government, though, could bring it to a halt rapidly, if it had the will to do so.

The current economic downturn and the Mexican demographic transformation are both good reasons, among many others, to end the Mexican exodus to the U.S.

Yet there is another factor involved which we haven`t yet mentioned. Thus far, I have been discussing the drastic fall in the Mexican birth rate of Mexican women in Mexico.

If we`re talking about the birthrate of Mexican immigrants to the U.S., and to U.S. Hispanics in general, that`s a whole other subject. Hispanic women in the U.S. have a higher birth rate than both American women in general and the women back home in Mexico.

On March 18th, 2009, the CDC released its preliminary data for 2007, which breaks fertility rates down by race. According to that information, women classified with the irritating designation of “Non-Hispanic Whites” have a total fertility rate of 1.9. Women classified as Non-Hispanic Blacks(another irritating designation) have a  TFR of 2.1. Hispanic women, though, have a total fertility rate of 2.99.

Another census document reveals that among Hispanics, foreign-born non-citizen women have a higher fertility rate than native-born or naturalized females.

And, among Hispanics, Mexican women have the highest fertility rate.

(Cuban-Americans, traditionally the most Republican Hispanic sub-group, have a 1.5 rate, lower than that of “Non-Hispanic Whites”. )

According to the CDC data released in 2006, the TFR for Hispanics in general was 2.7. Among Hispanics, Cuban women, at 1.5, had the lowest TFR. (And Cubans are the only Hispanic group which traditionally voted Republican.) Puerto Rican women had a 2.1 rate (the same as Blacks). But Mexican women in the U.S. had a TFR of 2.9. The document explains that

“Difference in fertility among Hispanic groups persists even when the effect of the populations` sex and age composition is controlled…. Fertility rates for Mexican women continue to be much higher than for any other group, reflecting the higher birth rates for Mexican women in every age group.”

So think about it. Women in Mexico have drastically reduced their fertility rate, right down to U.S. levels. But Mexican women who come to the U.S. have more children than they would have had they stayed in Mexico, even more children than their Hispanic sisters who hail from other countries.

Why is that? There are probably several factors involved, but I can`t help thinking it`s related in part to the high welfare dependence of Mexican immigrants, who receive a lot more such benefits than they could`ve gotten back in Mexico.

Many Mexican women in the U.S. give birth to anchor babies, born in hospital emergency rooms. And, as Edwin Rubenstein has pointed out,

“[A]n analysis of Census Bureau survey data found that 24.9 percent of families headed by illegal Mexican immigrants and 33.9 percent of households headed by naturalized Mexican immigrants and receive at least one major welfare program. By contrast, only 14.9 percent of native households receive any welfare.”

Remember too, that nearly half the current births to U.S. Hispanics in general are illegitimate, which is an even higher rate than the already high Mexican illegitimacy rate.

Whatever the various factors involved, Mexican women here in the U.S. have more children than they have in Mexico. And guess who`s footing the bill? You, the American Taxpayer.

As we are constantly reminded, if present population trends continue, within about three decades, the historical White, English-speaking majority will no longer be the majority, due to mass immigration and the high birthrate of U.S. Hispanics.

As a people, we never directly chose this destiny, nor were we even asked about it. But we`re expected to pay for it, and be happy about it, as our nation is transformed into part of Latin America before our very eyes.

But as VDARE.COM`s Edwin Rubenstein has pointed out, this massive demographic transformation is still not inevitable.

What we need to do is halt immigration, plug up the anchor baby loophole, and quit forcing our historical majority population to pay for its own dispossession.

Given our current economic situation, and the demographic transformation of Mexico, the time is ripe for an end to mass immigration. In the long run, I think stopping the mass emigration of Mexicans is good for Mexico too.

But these problems won`t solve themselves. It is we Americans ourselves who must take our country back. That`s the real transformation we need, and soon.

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) recently moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here and his website is here.