Why is Mexico such a dump compared to the USA?

What is it with Mexico that makes it so poor when its next door neighbor is so rich?

Come to think of it, most groups of countries in the world are pretty mcu on the same economic level. For example, is France that far off economically than Germany, England, Switzerland, or Italy?

And it goes in the other direction too. Arent most of the southeast Asian countries about the same? Arent most African countries similar?

So why cant Mexico be better economically?

Let’s move this to Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator

Mexico kinda missed things like the gold rush, the fur trade, the slave trade, cotton, various developments that spurred demand for steel, steam, rails, petroleum. Mexico had its heyday from the 16th to the 18th century during the galleon trade.

Mexico was an extractive economy for much of its colonial and post-colonial history (silver and gold, then oil). That creates a very unequal, distorted economy.

Though I think Mexico is far less of a “dump” than many Americans think (many Americans only see either the worst side of the border towns, or atypical tourist spots like Cabo and Cancun). It has several cities and regions that are well-developed, the country’s life expectancy (77.14 years) is within MONTHS of the U.S. life expectancy (78.74) and its economy is growing at a rate that surpasses many industrialized countries. Emigration is rapidly declining, though the transmigration of Central Americans is still an issue. Mexico is closer to Russia than to Bangladesh or Nigeria.

However, Mexico still has severe problems, such as rural poverty in most indigenous southern communities and - of course - the drug war and high levels violent crime.

If you consider a 1.6 year difference to be “within months”, what is not considered “within months”? 2 years? 2.5 years? 5 years?. Literally they’re all “within months”, and I’d think if the gap is longer than the next longest generally contemplated subdivision you wouldn’t normally emphasize that they’re within the smaller subdivision.

IAN syncrolecyne and cannot speak for them, but I think their point was just that compared to the overall spread of life-expectancy numbers among nations in general, the US-Mexico difference is not very significant.

For instance, you would probably not consider the US to be much more of a “dump” (i.e., poorer and more troubled) than other developed nations such as France or Spain or Israel. Yet all those countries have life expectancy rates at least three years greater than that of the US. Meanwhile, the countries like Niger and Somalia that everyone agrees really are a “dump” economically and societally, as compared to the US, have life expectancy rates over twenty years less than ours.

The point is just that Mexico is actually a lot less “dumpy” than many people imagine it is, at least compared to many countries that are really poor and unstable on global terms.

Keep in mind the richest person on the planet is typically a Mexican, Carlos Slim. Him and Bill Gates flip flop a bit.

Mexico has money, it’s very unevenly distributed. The wealthy area’s are extremely wealthy and the poor areas are extremely poor. The wealthy are the ones running the politics of the country and they really don’t want that to change, they like living like kings thank you very much. So the poor in Mexico don’t have a lot of economic mobility which stifles the countries overall growth.

I’m sure a more conservative person can come through and propose an entirely different theory.

No, and no.

One of my favorite photos of the border of the US and Mexico is this one:


No, the Mexican side is not the almost empty spaces on the left, Mexico is on the right, with all those modern cars on the free way and that big modern looking city on the right is Tijuana.

So yes, less dumpy than expected, but it will depend on the location.

Following up on John Mace’s correction of this point, I’ll just point out the southeast Asian countries Singapore (#9 worldwide on the Human Development Index, right after the US (#5), Germany, New Zealand and Canada) and the Philippines (#117).

By comparison, Mexico is #71, closer to the US than Indonesia (#108) is to Singapore.

I think there was a thread here before on what international border represents the biggest difference in prosperity, and there was a consensus it was the one between Libya and Niger.

US-Mexico is not even close.

The rule of law has got to be a big one. Or rather, in Mexico’s case, the lack of the rule of law. Mexico is grossly corrupt.

That’s only because Bill Gates has given away nearly 30 billion of his fortune, Carlos Slim has granted done some philanthropic things, but not even close to Gates.

It happens within countries too. In England there is a North South divide, in spite of the efforts of successive governments to even things up. Italy has to be one of the most marked, with GDP per person more than 40 per cent lower in the South than it is in the centre and north.


I’m pretty sure India has the biggest intra-country variation. India as a whole is a bit less developed than Nicaragua, but the most developed states are similar to Russia and the least developed group with Burundi.

When my brother went across the Mexican border he forgot his passport and told the Mexican official. He was ushered into another room where he paid the guy 20 dollars and was let into the country.
If the same thing happened in the US the official would have been afraid to ask for the bribe and my brother would have been afraid to give one.
That is the difference in microcosm. The US has the rule of law, where everyone is expected to do the right thing. Mexico has a culture of corruption where everyone has to know someone or bribe someone to get anything done.
This is changing and if you look globally, Mexico is a successful country but compared to the US it is a mess.

So how did your brother do to get back into the US?

This is why conspiracists who believe we are headed for a North American Union really have nothing to worry about. Highly doubtful that such a thing will happen without Mexico significantly reducing its economic inequality and there is no way that is happening any time soon.

It would seem likely that the border between North and South Korea represents a greater extreme.

Because the moment they develop their property, their next-door neighbour comes over and steals it ?