Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Growth, Development, and Quality of Life

Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Growth, Development, and Quality of Life

Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Growth, Development, and Quality of Life

Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Growth, Development, and Quality of Life


The U. S. and Mexican border regions have experienced rapid demographic and economic growth over the last fifty years. In this analysis, Joan Anderson and James Gerber offer a new perspective on the changes and tensions pulling at the border from both sides through a discussion of cross-border economic issues and thorough analytical research that examines not only the dramatic demographic and economic growth of the region, but also shifts in living standards, the changing political climate, and environmental pressures, as well as how these affect the lives of people in the border region.

Creating what they term a Border Human Development Index, the authors rank the quality of life for every U. S. county and Mexicanmunicipiothat touches the 2,000-mile border. Using data from six U. S. and Mexican censuses, the book adeptly illustrates disparities in various aspects of economic development between the two countries over the last six decades.

Anderson and Gerber make the material accessible and compelling by drawing an evocative picture of how similar the communities on either side of the border are culturally, yet how divided they are economically. The authors bring a heightened level of insight to border issues not just for academics but also for general readers. The book will be of particular value to individuals interested in how the border between the two countries shapes the debates on quality of life, industrial growth, immigration, cross-border integration, and economic and social development.


Communities along the United States–Mexico border have a great deal in common, including a shared history, two deserts, rapid population growth, thriving tourism, and deepening economic integration. Day-today life for people living along the border is shaped by these common elements, plus the distinctive feature of an international border that divides families, friends, and businesses. The challenges posed by an international boundary that draws into proximity two vastly different countries while simultaneously dividing local communities of great similarity represent a complex mix of economics, politics, culture, and language. Directly or indirectly, the international boundary affects the daily life of nearly everyone living near the border through its impact on economic and political relationships, family and social ties, and the shared natural environment.

Throughout this book, we use the terms border area or border region as a linguistic shorthand; in fact, the U.S.-Mexico border comprises many regions. In an effort to discern the nature of the borderland, however, we will look first to a more general description. Culturally, the U.S.-Mexico border marks the intersection of cuisines, music, and languages from North America and Latin America. Economically, the border separates a developed country and a developing country, with one of the largest crossborder income gaps in the world. Nevertheless, in every economic and demographic category, the local and regional disparities are less than those between the two countries as a whole: whereas the Mexican border region is wealthier than Mexico as a whole, the U.S. border region is mostly poorer than the rest of the United States, thus bringing communities . . .

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