Search Results : 20 » Geo-Mexico, the geography of Mexico » Page 42

Jun 172012
 

Good news for Mexico’s coastline! The controversial Cabo Cortés mega-resort project in Baja California Sur, Mexico, has been cancelled, with President Felipe Calderón announcing that in “such an important area for the Gulf of California and the country … we should all be absolutely certain that [the project] will not cause irreversible harm”. However, Calderón did not rule out the possibility that a revised, more sustainable project might meet government approval.

As detailed in several previous geo-mexico.com posts, the Cabo Cortés project had been opposed by local residents, fishermen, environmental groups including Greenpeace and many academics:

The president of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, Gustavo Alanis, hailed the government’s decision as “a triumph for conservation, environmental protection and nature.” He said that it is “a message in favor of legality and the rule of law in the environmental sphere” that would make clear to potential investors that they are welcomed as long as they respect nature and comply with existing environmental laws.

Jun 162012
 

This is part of an occasional series of updates featuring news items relating to the Mexican diaspora, especially that part of it residing in the USA. Links to previous news round-ups appear at the end of the article.

Sharp drop in number of illegal border crossings

Julian Aguilar, writing for The Texas Tribune, attributes the sharp drop in apprehensions by the US Border Patrol (from about 540,000 in 2009 to 327,500 in 2011) to “a sour economy, increased enforcement by the Border Patrol and skyrocketing smuggling fees” that combine to keep “more would-be crossers at home.”

Undocumented Mexican migrants in the USA

According to a Department of Homeland Security report published in the American media, including The Economic Times, the number of undocumented Mexican migrants in January 2011 stood at 6.8 million, 59% of the total number of undocumented migrants. The total number was around 11.5 million, down slightly from the figure of 11.6 million the year before. The number of undocumented migrants peaked in 2007 at 11.8 million. The report claims that only 14% of all undocumented migrants in January 2011 had entered the USA after 2005. The figure for undocumented migrants includes more than 1 million minors.

The Pew Hispanics Center estimates that 35% of undocumented adults have been in the USA for 15 years or longer.

Mexican migrants: a million more in poverty in just four years, but rich Hispanics get richer
According to a study published by the banking giant BBVA the number of first generation Mexicans living in poverty in the USA rose from 2.6 million in 2007 to 3.5 million in 2011. Nationwide, about 15% of Mexicans live in poverty, according to US statistics, only half the 30% figure for first generation Mexican migrants. The report’s authors blame the economic crisis and steep rises in unemployment.

It was not all doom and gloom in the BBVA report. The report also found that the proportion of Mexican migrants earning less than 30,000 dollars a year fell from 30% in 1997 to 12.6% in 2011, while the proportion of migrants earning more than 40,000 dollars a year rose from only 4.7% to 15%.

Size of the Hispanic market

This ties in nicely with a study by leading market research firm Packaged Facts which found that 8.2 million Hispanic adults live in households with an income of 75,000 dollars or more. The number of “upscale Latino households” doubled between 2000 and 2010. The report estimates that the buying power of these households will reach 680 billion dollars by 2016. Noting that this group accounts for more than two-thirds of all Hispanics who annually spend $1,000 or more online, Packaged Facts suggested that retailers may wish to rethink their marketing strategies and realign advertising campaigns targeting the massive Hispanic market.

According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the buying power of minorities in the USA has grown into a diverse and formidable consumer market in the last decade. Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center, in the Selig Center’s annual Multicultural Economy report, writes that, “In 2012, the $1.2 trillion Hispanic market is larger than the entire economies of all but 13 countries in the world.”

First generation Mexican-American children healthier than succeeding generations

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that first generation Mexican-American children are thinner and eat better than subsequent generations. The study conducted by the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina looked at 2,300 Mexican-American youth aged 12-19.

Health experts believe that the diet of first generation Mexican-Americans is closer to traditional Mexican cuisine, and is therefore relatively rich in meat, beans, fruit and vegetables. The study found that second-generation Mexican-Americans were 2.5 times as likely to be obese as their first-generation peers; third-generation Mexican-Americans were two times more likely to be obese.

Cultural identity: what’s in a name?

The Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) has published the results of a survey of 1200 Hispanic adults that explores how migrants in the USA see themselves. Entitled “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity”, the report opens by saying that,

Nearly four decades after the United States government mandated the use of the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” to categorize Americans who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries, a new nationwide survey of Hispanic adults finds that these terms still haven’t been fully embraced by Hispanics themselves. A majority (51%) say they most often identify themselves by their family’s country of origin; just 24% say they prefer a pan-ethnic label.

Moreover, by a ratio of more than two-to-one (69% versus 29%), survey respondents say that the more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S. have many different cultures rather than a shared common culture. Respondents do, however, express a strong, shared connection to the Spanish language. More than eight-in-ten (82%) Latino adults say they speak Spanish, and nearly all (95%) say it is important for future generations to continue to do so.”

The PHC report makes many interesting points about migrants’ cultural identity, race, language and core values.

About half (47%) of all Hispanics say they consider themselves to be very different from the typical American. Only 21% say they use the term “American” most often to describe their identity. However, regardless of where they were born, large majorities of Latinos say that life in the USA is better than in their family’s country of origin and 87% say it is important for immigrant Hispanics to learn English in order to succeed.

Related posts:

Jun 142012
 

The town of Tequisquiapan is an excellent place for geographers!

For one thing, it has a monument claiming to be The geographic center of Mexico. While this is hotly disputed, it is a fun place to start!

Tequisquiapan is an attractive spa town which has many hotels, restaurants and stores. It has grown substantially in recent years, attracting former Mexico City dwellers tired of the traffic congestion, smog and challenges of living in the big city. Mid-week, Tequisquiapan is largely deserted, with the air of a ghost town, waiting for revival. Revival occurs every weekend as the wealthier residents of Mexico City flee the city in search of clean air and blue skies. The town’s restaurants begin to fill and the discos gear up for action lasting into the early hours. Many of the weekenders now own second homes in Tequisquiapan.

Upmarket homes in Tequisquiapan. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved

Upmarket homes in Tequisquiapan

Why is Tequisquiapan such an attractive choice for them? The key attractions (see Tequisquiapan, Querétaro: a delightful spa town)  are:

  • a small town atmosphere, with winding cobblestone streets, lined by attractive and neatly kept one-story buildings
  • the town boasts a dozen or more “three star” or better hotels, all with thermal swimming pools, and a multitude of handicraft shops and galleries
  • an 18-hole golf course, open to the public
  • a specialist handicrafts market, a lively permanent market and, on weekends, numerous small street stalls selling precious stones and jewelry (for enticing pictures, see Tequisquiapan, provincial Mexican charm  on MexConnect.com)
  • the town is small enough to walk around and bathed in sunshine virtually all year round
  • an annual cheese and wine festival in early summer
  • it is less than two hours by car from Mexico City
Annotated Google Earth image of Tequisquiapan area

Annotated Google Earth image of Tequisquiapan area

Anyone interested in urban geography will find that Tequisquiapan’s layout is quite unusual (for Mexico).  Some streets in the center of the town wander aimlessly rather than conforming to the traditional Mexican grid pattern. By way of comparison, a newer area of settlement across the highway (see image above) exhibits perfect grid pattern.

Bougainvillea-covered wall in Tequisquiapan

Behind the stone walls of the many fine hotels, the spa waters of Tequisquiapan offer their temptation. Why hike the streets when you can laze by a pool? The water is tepid rather than hot but very welcome, given the arid heat that envelops this area most of the year.

Towards the south-east, the town has grown around existing farmland, so homes surround an undeveloped core of agricultural land.

To the north, a former hacienda (Hacienda Grande) has been converted into a residential area built around a golf course. The irrigated fairways are strikingly visible on Google Earth.

Tequisquiapan is one of the few Mexican towns of its size and age to have a gated community in the downtown core, immediately off the main plaza.

Physical geographers won’t be disappointed either. Also near the center, upmarket houses have been built on the neck of a cut-off meander which has left an “island” with the river on either side. Floods on this river are now unlikely since it is controlled by the Centenario dam which has created a reservoir, Presa el Centenario, used for water sports.

The flat valley floor around Tequisquiapan has become a rich farming area, particularly well known for its vineyards. A network of aqueducts and irrigation channels helps farmers overcome the vagaries of the annual dry season.

 

Aqueduct near Tequisquiapan. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Aqueduct near Tequisquiapan

The fact that this area has a pronounced dry season means that most local streams are intermittent; they run only for short periods during and immediately after the rainy season. The rest of the year, their channels are dry, providing a perfect opportunity for physical geographers to walk along them studying their features and landforms, without even getting their feet wet!

Irrigation channel near Tequisquiapan. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Irrigation channel near Tequisquiapan

On balance, given all these points of geographical interest, maybe Tequisquiapan is right to call itself the “geographic center” of Mexico after all!

Photos:

All photos in this post are by Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Jun 112012
 

Avocados originated in Mexico and the country remains the world’s leading producer. Farmers in Michoacán (where 92% of Mexico’s avocados are grown) harvested 1.1 million tons of avocados in the 2010-2011 harvest season, 40% of the world total. About 125,000 hectares, or 11.5% of all agricultural land in Michoacán, is currently under avocado orchards.

Avocado-growing states in Mexico.

Avocado-growing states in Mexico

The value of avocado exports has tripled over the past five years. Exports in 2011 totaled almost 400,000 metric tons and were worth 990 million dollars, compared to 338 million dollars in 2006. The main export markets are the USA (80%), Japan (9%) and Canada (6%).

Part of the reason for strong exports is due to an increased demand from US consumers but it is also due to new menus in fast food chains. The addition of avocados in 2010-11 to the menus of Burger King and Subway restaurants has since been followed by competitors such as Wendy’s, so US demand for avocados should continue to grow.

Avocado growing has not been entirely plain sailing in recent years. Growers organizations have reported that costs of the inputs of water, fertilizers and electricity required for avocado growing have all risen sharply.

Avocado growers are also having to confront a relatively new challenge that increases the cost of doing business. According to an article in Mexico City daily La Jornada, growers are now being forced to pay “protection money” to criminal gangs operating in Michoacan’s avocado-growing zone.

The article claims that avocado producers in 13 municipalities in the state of Michoacán face almost daily demands for “protection” payments if they are to continue farming and avoid kidnappings and other forms of violence. It goes on to say that many smaller growers near Uruapan, Zitácuaro and Ziracuarétiro have chosen to rent out or sell their avocado orchards and move away from the area entirely.

In addition, one of the criminal groups is demanding up to $1,000 pesos (75 dollars) a plant for every avocado plant purchased from specialist nurseries. Several different groups are alleged to be involved. Avocado packers and truck drivers are also made to pay “fees” which can amount to between 40% and 60% of their normal income, according to anonymous representatives of national organizations speaking to the press.

The situation affects avocado growers in many places, including Los Reyes, Uruapan, Salvador Escalante, Acuitzio, Tacámbaro, Ario, Teretán, Apatzingán, Tacíntaro, Nuevo Parangaricutiro, Peribán, Tingüindín and Zitácuaro.

At one time, there were as many as 22,000 avocado growers, half of them working only small orchards. The protection rackets have meant that new plantings have become the preserve of a relatively small number of larger farms, and it is currently estimated that the total number of growers has shrunk to around 17,500.

Related posts:

Jun 092012
 

The annual total of remittances sent back to families in Mexico by migrant workers in the USA increased year-on-year to 22.731 billion dollars in 2011, and looks set to rise again this year.

Mexico’s central bank (the Bank of Mexico) recently released figures showing that remittances to Mexico increased in April 2012 by more than 8% compared to the same month a year earlier, bringing the cumulative total for the first four months of this year to 7.4 billion dollars, 6% higher than in the same period in 2011.

These increases in remittance flows come despite increasing evidence that the net flow of migrants leaving Mexico to work in the USA has come to a standstill:  Net migration flow from Mexico to the USA falls close to zero or has possibly reversed.

For more detail about remittances in Mexico, see:

 

Jun 092012
 

What does it matter where places are? Well, as I geographer, I have to admit that I have always thought it quite important, especially for a  business exchanging one currency for another. However, apparently ForexTicket is unconcerned about such details of geography, since its website, which incidentally has a nice design and includes a flag of Mexico, gets its basic world geography all mixed up:

Mexican Peso

  • iso 4217: MXN
  • Mexico (South America)

Enough said! Now that you’re made it into our Hall of Shame, please consider checking an atlas and revising your website,

Sincerely,

Geo-mexico.com

 Posted by at 8:42 am
Jun 072012
 

The Peña de Bernal, in the central state of Querétaro, is one of Mexico’s most distinctive geomorphosites. Geomorphosites are “landforms that have acquired a scientific, cultural/historical, aesthetic and/or social/economic value due to human perception or exploitation” (Panizza M., 2001). See Geotourism and geomorphosites in Mexico for a brief introduction to the topic.

The Peña de Bernal is a dramatic sight, which only gets more imposing the closer you get. How high is the Peña de Bernal? We are unable to give you a definitive answer (it depends where you start measuring from) but claims of 350 meters (1150 feet) sound about right, assuming we start from the town.

Peña de Bernal. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved

The Peña de Bernal. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

According to its Wikipedia entry, this is the “third tallest monolith in the world”, apparently only exceeded by the Rock of Gibralter and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Others, including Melville King, have described it as the “third largest rock in the world”. These claims may (or may not) be exaggerated, but in reality it is definitely a very steep and tiring climb, even to reach the small chapel that has been built half-way up! The photo below is taken from this chapel, looking out over Bernal and the local farmland and vineyards.

View from the Peña Bernal, with the town of Bernal in the foreground.

View from the Peña de Bernal over the small town of Bernal. Photo: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

How was the Peña de Bernal formed?

The most likely explanation is that this monolith represents the hardened magma (molten rock) from the central vent of a former volcano. This rock was much more resistant to erosion that the layers of ash and/or lava that formed the volcano’s flanks. Centuries of erosion removed the sides, leaving the resistant core of the volcano exposed as a volcanic neck. We will examine this idea in slightly more detail in a future post.

The town of Bernal

The town of San Sebastián Bernal is also well worth visiting. Having become a magnet for New Age types, it now boasts several decent restaurants, good stores and a range of hotels including high quality “boutique” hotels. Bernal was designated one of Mexico’s “Magic Towns” in 2005. To learn more about the town of Bernal and see some fine photos, we highly recommend Jane Ammeson’s article “The magic of Bernal, Querétaro: wine, opals and historic charm.

At the Spring Equinox (March 21), the town is invaded by visitors “dressed in long, white robes or gowns, and red neckerchiefs” who come seeking “wisdom, unity, energy and new beginnings”. (Loretta Scott Miller writing in El Ojo del Lago, July 1997).

How to get there:

From Mexico City, take the Querétaro highway (Hwy 57D) north-west to San Juan del Río. Then take Highway 120 past Tequisquiapan as far as the small cross-roads town of Ezequiel Montes. Turn left for about 11 kilometers, then right… and you’re there! Taking this route gives you glimpses of the Peña de Bernal from afar. Allow 2.0 to 2.5 hours for the drive.

Other geomorphosites worth visiting:

Mexico has literally thousands of geomorphosites. Among those described in previous posts are:

 

Jun 042012
 

A previous post—How “complex” is the Mexican economy?—discussed The Atlas of Economic Complexity and noted that Mexico’s Economic Complexity Index (ECI) of 1.145 ranked it 20th among 128 countries. ECI indicates a wide range of complex knowledge capabilities related to productive enterprises. Mexico has a very high ECI given its income level; all other countries in the top 20 have significantly higher incomes than Mexico.

According to the Atlas, during the rest of the decade Mexico’s GDP should grow relatively rapidly to catch up with its ECI. Analyses in the Atlas indicate that during the last few decades countries with higher than expected ECIs compared to their income levels experience more rapid economic growth. While this relationship is empirically true, it should be noted that it does not explicitly include other factors thought to be important to economic growth (see Section 4 of the Atlas). Some of these other factors are governance and institutional quality, corruption, political stability, measures of human capital and competitiveness indicators. The Atlas implies that these other factors contribute to and thus are indirectly part of the Economic Complexity Index.

The analysis in the Atlas predicts that Mexico’s annual growth in real per capita GDP will be 3.5% from 2009 to 2020, ranking it 10th in the world in growth rate (see table). (The growth rates for some other countries are given in footnote 1 below.)  Mexico’s annual growth in real per capita GDP is impressive given that its growth was only 0.8% per year for 1999 to 2009, the same as that for the USA. Growth in these two countries was slowed significantly during this period as a result of the very severe recession, the worst since the great depression. This rather slow growth is surprising given that Mexico’s ECI increased from 1998 to 2008 was ranked 30th worldwide. Though the Mexican economy suffered significantly during this period, it continued to develop new productive capabilities and become more complex. This added complexity is expected to generate accelerated economic growth in the current decade.

RankCountry% growth in GDP/person, 1999-2009Expected % growth in GDP/person, 2009-2020, Income/person, 2009Expected income/person, 2020
1China9.64.33,7445,962
2India5.64.31,1921,886
3Thailand3.14.03,8936,023
4Belarus7.94.05,0757,806
5Moldova4.84.01,5162,321
6Zimbabwe449.03.8 - 6.2676?
7Ukraine5.23.72,4683,694
8Bosnia-Herzegovina4.13.64,5256,669
9Panama3.93.67,15510,529
10MEXICO0.83.58,14311,894

The low growth rate of 0.8% per year for 1999 to 2009 represents “real” per capita growth corrected for inflation and population growth. In nominal terms, Mexico’s total GDP growth from 1998 to 2008 was 1.8% per year. It is expected to grow 4.8% per year for 2009 to 2020, which ranks its 22nd in the world, behind numerous poor African countries with rapidly growing populations. Of large or populous world countries, the only ones ranked ahead of Mexico are India (ranked 8th), the Philippines (12th), Egypt (14th), Pakistan (18th) and China (20th).

In summary, the Atlas of Economic Complexity predicts that the Mexican economy will grow very rapidly during the rest of this decade and beyond. Let’s hope that this prediction becomes a reality.

Footnote 1:

For comparison: Indonesia ranked 21st at 3.3%, Pakistan 27th at 3.1%, Guatemala 35th at 3.0%, South Africa 41st at 2.9%, Turkey 43rd at 2.8%, Brazil 48th at 2.7%, Argentina 54th at 2.6%, Russia 59th at 2.6%, USA 91st at 2.0%, Canada 104th at 1.7% and Nigeria 118th at 1.1%.

Source:

Ricardo Hausmann, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. The Atlas of Economic Complexity, The Observatory of Economic Complexity (Harvard HKS/CDI – MIT Media Lab). Retrieved 19 May 2012.

Jun 022012
 

Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat has designated four more Magic Towns, bringing the total number to fifty-four. The latest Magic Towns are:

51. Angangueo (Michoacán)

Angangueo is an attractive former silver-mining town. At the entrance to the town are strange, step-sided earth mounds; these are not pre-Columbian pyramids but twentieth century spoil-tips.

Angangueo’s pretty single-story buildings with red roofs and flower-filled porches line a narrow main street which gradually meanders up to the head of the valley and the town plaza. There are two large churches on this plaza, an obvious sign of the town’s former wealth. Worth visiting, one block uphill from the plaza, is the former residence of Bill Parker, 1930s mine superintendent, and his wife Joyce, a keen photographer. Mining in Angangueo declined after a serious accident in 1953, said to have been caused by the company’s foreign management in response to a threatened strike. The miners who lost their lives in this accident are commemorated by a huge statue which overlooks the town.

Angangueo. Sketch by Mark Eager; all rights reserved.

Angangueo, c 1980. Sketch by Mark Eager; all rights reserved.

The hustle and bustle of industrial activity has been replaced by a slower, more leisurely approach to life. In Angangueo, afternoon siestas are still the norm; don’t expect the small stores to reopen at any particular time in the afternoon. Railway enthusiasts will appreciate not only the standard-gauge mainline and its end-of-the-line station which squeezes the town’s main street against the valley side but also the narrow-gauge mining track which burrows deep into the hillsides.

From 1980-2010, Angangueo acquired a new lease of life as a tourist town, taking advantage of its location close to two major Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries. However, in February 2010, the town suffered extensive flood damage when landslides and mudflows swept away dozens of homes, killing at least 30 residents.

{The illustration and parts of the description are taken, with permission, from chapter 30 of Tony Burton’s “Western Mexico, a Traveller’s Treasury”)

52. Cuatro Ciénegas (Coahuila)

Cuatro Ciénegas (“Four marshes”) is a city and municipality in the northern border state of Coahuila. Situated in an arid region (part of the Chihuahuan desert), its name derives from the proximity of several natural springs that feed more than 200 small ponds and wetlands. These are an integral part of the UNESCO-designated Cuatro Ciénegas biosphere reserve. The city, founded in 1800, has some historical significance, since it was the birthplace of Venustiano Carranza, Mexico’s president from 1915 to 1920.

53. Magdalena de Kino (Sonora)

Magdalena de Kino is a city (and municipality) in an agricultural area in the northern state of Sonora, about 80 km (50 mi) from the Mexico-USA border. The earliest mission was established here by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino (“Padre Kino”), whose remains are now interred in a crypt near the mission. Father Kino was a tireless evangelist and educator, who led explorations of the virtually unknown areas that are, today, the states of Sinaloa, Sonora and Arizona, founding numerous missions as he went.

Magdalena de Kino has several stone buildings of historic or tourist interest, including the Padre Kino Museum and the Temple of Santa María Magdalena, a place of pilgrimage. The city’s main religious festival is held to coincide with 4 October each year.

54. Pahuatlán (Puebla)

Pahuatlán (“place of the fruits”) is a town and municipality in the state of Puebla. In early times, the town, in the mountainous northern region of the state, was a zone of conflict between several indigenous groups. The area has retained many traditions, including that of making paper by hand from tree bark. The Otomí village of San Pablito, in the Pahuatlán municipality, is by far the best-known center of production for this bark paper or amate. The word amate derives from amatl, the Nahuatl word for paper.

Besides being used as a kind of rough paper for records and correspondence, amate was also cut into human or animal forms as part of witchcraft rituals after which it would be buried in front of the person’s house or animal enclosure. Colorful paintings on papel amate or bark paper are sold throughout central Mexico, virtually anywhere there are tourists. The tradition is an ancient one.

In the village of San Pablito (see video), villagers (mainly women and children because many of the menfolk have left to work in the USA) wash the bark, boil it with a solution of lime juice for several hours, and then lay it in strips on a wooden board. They then beat these pulpy strips with stones called muintos or aplanadores until they fuse together to form the desired texture of paper, which is then allowed to dry in the sun.

Centuries of practice enable them to produce amate paper of any thickness, from the equivalent of crepe-paper to poster-board. Visitors to San Pablito quickly discover that the constant sound of pounding is a distinctive reminder of the village’s main industry.

Related posts:

 

May 282012
 

In his classic book, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith proposed that division of labor and economic specialization were the keys to increases in productivity and the wealth of nations. While Smith was primarily talking about the degree of specialization within nations, specialization among nations and comparative advantage were also important. Obviously, in the 21st century there is specialization within and among all nations, but some are more specialized or more complex than others. But how can economic complexity be measured?

Fortunately this question is addressed head-on by Ricardo Hausmann, Cesar Hidalgo and their co-researchers in The Atlas of Economic Complexity (Harvard HKS/CDI – MIT Media Lab, 2011). They argue that highly complex economies produce sophisticated products that require a very wide and diverse set of knowledge capabilities. Very few countries have the capabilities to produce such sophisticated products which might include the very specialized equipment and very precise measuring instruments needed to produce highly complex chemicals or pharmaceuticals. Other examples might include the range of knowledge capabilities needed to build a nuclear power plant or space station. Obviously very few nations with very complex economies have these capabilities.

At the other end, a very large number of countries with less complex economies have the range of capabilities needed to produce simple products like basic foods, mineral ores, lumber, garments, shoes, glass, kitchen utensils, candles and furniture.

In producing an atlas that covered a large number of countries, the authors were limited by the availability of data. They decided to use information on exports because the data were available and the range of exports reveal the complexity of an economy. Unfortunately, accurate data are only available on the trade of physical products; they are not available for services which are the dominant sector for modern economies. On the other hand, the sophistication of product exports does a good job of capturing the complexity of economies.

In developing their Economic Complexity Index or ECI, the authors developed a product complexity index based on the number of countries capable of making and exporting specific products as well as the diversity of products exported by specific countries. The Atlas presents ECIs for the 128 countries that had reliable data, populations over 1.2 million and trade over $1 billion.

RankCountryEconomic Complexity IndexIncome/person (2009 US$)
1Japan2.31639,738
2Germany1.98540,670
3Switzerland1.93563,629
4Sweden1.85943,654
5Austria1.80745,562
6Finland1.71544,581
7Singapore1.63936,537
8Czech Republic1.62818,139
9U.K.1.55835,165
10Slovenia1.52323,726
11France1.47341,051
12South Korea1.46917,078
13USA1.44745,989
14Hungary1.43012,868
15Slovak Republic1.37916,176
16Italy1.30835,084
17Denmark1.26755,992
18Ireland1.23151,049
19Israel1.16426,256
20MEXICO1.1458,143

The 20 countries with the highest Economic Complexity Indices are presented in the table, along with their 2009 per capita income. Japan is clearly the most complex economy followed by Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria. The USA is ranked 13th and Canada is 41st. Fourteen of the top 20 countries are European; most are high income, highly industrialized countries. Countries with large natural resource exports tend to rank low in economic complexity. Norway is 33rd, Russia 46th, New Zealand 48th, Brazil 52nd, Saudi Arabia 68th, Australia 79th.

Mexico is ranked 20th which is very impressive since all others in the top 20 have significantly higher incomes. Mexico does very well compared to other large emerging economies: China is 29th; Turkey is 43rd, Russia is 46th, India is 51st, Brazil is 52nd, South Africa is 55th, Argentina is 57th and Indonesia is 61st. Mexico’s economic complexity has grown significantly in the past 50 years. It grew from 0.39 in 1964 to 1.14 in 2008; this increase ranked it 14th of 99 countries. (Countries improving faster than Mexico include: Thailand 2nd, Indonesia 5th, Brazil 7th, and Turkey 10th.) Over 60% of Mexico’s growth occurred between 1998 and 2008 when its ECI jumped from 0.80 to 1.14.

The Atlas argues that countries such as Mexico, with high levels of complexity given their income level, are expected to grow more rapidly in future years. We will explore this topic further in a future post.

Related posts:

 

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