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Why Isn't Mexico Rich?

  • Gordon H. Hanson

Over the last three decades, Mexico has aggressively reformed its economy, opening to foreign trade and investment, achieving fiscal discipline, and privatizing state owned enterprises. Despite these efforts, the country's economic growth has been lackluster, trailing that of many other developing nations. In this paper, I review arguments for why Mexico hasn't sustained higher rates of economic growth. The most prominent suggest that some combination of poorly functioning credit markets, distortions in the supply of non-traded inputs, and perverse incentives for informality creates a drag on productivity growth. These are factors internal to Mexico. One possible external factor is that the country has the bad luck of exporting goods that China sells, rather than goods that China buys. I assess evidence from recent literature on these arguments and suggest directions for future research.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16470.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Gordon H. Hanson, 2010. "Why Isn't Mexico Rich?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(4), pages 987-1004, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16470
Note: ITI
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  1. Jones, Charles I, 1995. "R&D-Based Models of Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 759-84, August.
  2. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond Robertson, 2010. "China and the Manufacturing Exports of Other Developing Countries," NBER Chapters, in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 137-159 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Raphael Bergoeing & Patrick J. Kehoe, 2001. "A decade lost and found: Mexico and Chile in the 1980s," Staff Report 292, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Gordon H. Hanson, 2006. "Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 44(4), pages 869-924, December.
  5. Gropp, Reint & Scholz, John Karl & White, Michelle J, 1997. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 217-51, February.
  6. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian & Alvaro Riascos & James A. Schmitz, 2004. "Latin America in the rearview mirror," Staff Report 351, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Arias, Javier & Azuara, Oliver & Bernal, Pedro & Heckman, James & Villarreal, Cajeme, 2010. "Policies to Promote Growth and Economic Efficiency in Mexico," MPRA Paper 20414, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2007. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," Discussion Papers 07-006, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  9. Mark J. Melitz, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. David McKenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2011. "Can migration reduce educational attainment? Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 1331-1358, October.
  11. Enright, Michael J. & Scott, Edith E. & Dodwell, David, 1997. "The Hong Kong Advantage," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195903225.
  12. World Bank, 2010. "World Development Indicators 2010," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4373.
  13. Irene Brambilla & Amit K. Khandelwal & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "China's Experience under the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)," NBER Chapters, in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 345-387 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "Ownership and Control in Outsourcing to China: Estimating the Property-Rights Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 729-761, May.
  15. Daniel Chiquiar & Manuel Ramos Francia, 2009. "Competitiveness and Growth of the Mexican Economy," Working Papers 2009-11, Banco de México.
  16. Daniel Chiquiar & Gordon H. Hanson, 2002. "International Migration, Self-Selection, and the Distribution of Wages: Evidence from Mexico and the United States," NBER Working Papers 9242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Aaron Tornell & Frank Westermann & Lorenza Martinez, 2004. "NAFTA and Mexico's Less-Than-Stellar Performance," NBER Working Papers 10289, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Laura Juarez, 2008. "Are Informal Workers Compensated for the Lack of Fringe Benefits? Free Health Care as an Instrument for Formality," Working Papers 0804, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
  19. Joshua Graff Zivin & Matthew J. Neidell, 2010. "Temperature and the Allocation of Time: Implications for Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 15717, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2008. "Experimental Evidence on Returns to Capital and Access to Finance in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 22(3), pages 457-482, November.
  21. Raphael Bergoeing & Patrick J. Kehoe & Timothy J. Kehoe & Raimundo Soto, 2002. "Data Appendix to A Decade Lost and Found: Mexico and Chile in the 1980s," Technical Appendices bergoeing02, Review of Economic Dynamics.
  22. Thorsten Beck & Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Vojislav Maksimovic, 2005. "Financial and Legal Constraints to Growth: Does Firm Size Matter?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(1), pages 137-177, 02.
  23. Sebastian Edwards, 2009. "Latin America's Decline: A Long Historical View," NBER Working Papers 15171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Mishra, Prachi, 2007. "Emigration and wages in source countries: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 180-199, January.
  25. Robert Kaestner & Ofer Malamud, 2010. "Self-Selection and International Migration: New Evidence from Mexico," NBER Working Papers 15765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Haber, Stephen H., 1991. "Industrial Concentration and the Capital Markets: A Comparative Study of Brazil, Mexico, and the United States, 1830–1930," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 559-580, September.
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