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Want to Curb Immigration? Invest in Education in Mexico

A blogger for the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs contends this week that Mexico's expanding and improving education system has led to a decrease in immigration to the United States. Ben Lamport, a research associate for the council, notes that the rate of immigration has leveled off recently.

He's right that immigration rates are flat. I blogged back in June that an analysis of U.S. Census data by Dowell Myers, a demographer from the University of Southern California, shows that the rate of immigration to the United States, which accelerated over the 1990s, has remained flat since 2000. A significant proportion of immigrants to the United States are Mexicans.

"While U.S. politicians and immigration experts prefer to link the reduction in both legal and undocumented immigration with beefed up border security and restrictions on the rights of illegal aliens, a more genuine determinant is more likely to be Mexico's improved education and literacy rates," Lamport writes.

But, in fact, he doesn't give strong evidence in his blog post that improved education is the cause of a leveling off of the rate of Mexicans moving to the United States. He just shows that educational achievement has improved in Mexico and schooling options have been expanded over the same period that the rate of immigration has leveled off.

Meanwhile, an article in the Sacramento Bee quotes Sacramento's Mexican consul general, Carlos González Gutiérrez, as saying that fewer undocumented immigrants are arriving in California from Mexico because the economy has improved in Mexico. "We have become a middle-class country," he says in the article.

Other reasons cited for a decrease in illegal immigration in the article are a weakened U.S. economy, an increase in deportations, and tougher border enforcement.

But certainly things aren't rosy in Mexico near the border, if media reports of the impact of the drug war are providing an accurate picture.

I think Lamport's hypothesis deserves some exploration. Would policymakers be wise to halt the spending of money on a wall stretching along the U.S.-Mexico border and instead invest dollars in schooling in Mexico, as Lamport suggests would be a more effective action?

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