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Why Isn't Mexico Rich?

Photo: Esparta Palma

That’s the question asked by U.C.-San Diego economist Gordon H. Hanson in a new working paper (abstract here; PDF here). From the abstract:

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.

And, in case you were wondering, here’s an important footnote:

The growth of the drug trade may distort GDP figures for Mexico. It is likely that value added in cultivating and exporting marijuana and opium, manufacturing and exporting methamphetamine, and distributing cocaine from South America to the United States is not fully represented in the country’s national income accounts.