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Mexican’s population decline

4 May 2007

For once, it’s good news, though at some time in the future, it’s going to dry up the U.S. supply of cheap labor, and force Mexico to consider more immigration.

The Mexican population crashed in the 1500s, mostly from diseases and sudden environmental changes (like introducing livestock) from about 25 million to about a million.  This was, of course, unprecedented, and the population didn’t recover until the 20th century. 

While there was another population decline in the 1910s during the Revolution (Europe’s dropped 25 percent in the same decade).  It wasn’t so much the wars, which were pretty minor compared to what was going on in Europe at the time, but emigration and just plain stress (when there’s not enough to eat, and the whole country was FUBAR, making babies wasn’t always on people’s minds.  Are wars caused by erectile dysfunction, or does war cause ED.  Either way, in the pre-viagra days, the population fell). 

After the Revolution, creating a more viable Mexico meant encouraging births. The government focused on better pre-natal care and food production, but — like every other country — no one thought about the limits to growth, or the potential downside of a huge population.

As a result, there was a HUGE increase in the population in the 1960s and 70s, but Mexico was one of the first countries to seriously consider the consequences of too many people.  Agricultural self-sufficiency was (at least until very recently) a national security issue, and — for all its faults — the State really did try to meet the needs of the people. There were just too many people to meet the needs of.

“The Pill” was  basically a Mexican invention (Dr. John Rock just synthisized a Huastaca folk remedy) and public health facilities in Mexico focused on birth control. 

More importantly, the REAL birth control methods … jobs, education, a future.. mean Mexican women are chosing to have fewer — and healthier — children investing more care in smaller families.

Emigration may play some part… Fred Reed (I think it was Fred.  If not, my apologies to that perceptive, good-writn’ old fart) pointed out that the folks who emigrate tend to be those who can’t make it at home… the poorest, and least educated who are the most likely to have a lot of babies.  And sick babies. And, according to the Associated Press, the annual emigration rate is higher than the annual death rate: 

Mexico’s demographics agency found that an average of 577,000 people migrated to the U.S. each year between 2000-2005, compared to 495,000 deaths a year in the same period. In 2006, 559,000 migrated and there were 501,000 deaths.

But given that these emigrants are earning more money, and sending money home, there’s a secondary effect. Besides taking “breeders” out of the population (in poor villages, you’re unlikely to find a lot of men of marriagable age) or just delaying childbearing because the potential fathers aren’t around, there’s more money to invest in things like education, and travelling to the rural health clinic and… spending on the few kids that are around (and hopefully, educating them so they can get a job at home, though THEY’LL have even fewer kids. 

(Fewer children in Mexico, Jorge Rodriguez, El Gráfico, 30-April-2007.  My translation)

The Mexican Cenus Bureau (El Consejo Nacional de Población, known as Conapo) estimates there are 31.7 million children under 15 years of age. 6.4 million live in communities “of high or very high maginalization” (what in the U.S. are called “at risk” or “disadvantaged”) which cannot count on satisfactory levels of health care , education or housing .

Every year for the last several decades, infant mortality has been dropping significantly in Mexico.

As a result of a declining birthrate over the last 30 years, the country can expect 412,000 less babies to be born this year as compared to 2006. The number of children is expected to continue to decline to 25.1 million in 2030 and 20.5 million by 2050.

Childhood death rates have also significantly diminished. In 1970, the infant mortality rate was 81 per thousand, now down to 16 per thousand.

Half of infant deaths are the result of prenatal condtions, though improving socioeconomic conditions have reduced the mortality rate. In Nuevo León and Baja Califonia, 6.5 boys and 5 girls per thousand die before their first birthday, while in Guerrero, Chiapas, Durango, Hidalgo and Puebla the rates are the same for both sexes.

Approximately one fourth of deaths in children between one and 15 years old are caused by accidents, 40 percent of those involving automobiles. Infectuous diseases and parasites are the second leading cause of death (12.6 percent), followed by tumors (11.8 percent) and congenital anomalies (10 percent).

Mother’s Day is May 10… and, while there may be fewer mothers, they’ve got a better chance of seeing their kids grow up, and — with fewer kids — a better opportunity to spoil em rotten so they do call mama on diez de mayo.

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