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.

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