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Patterns of Labor Force Participation in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region, 1970-1980

Kathleen Brook


In recent years there have been significant changes in the patterns of labor force participation in the United States and Mexico. In both countries the labor force has increased faster than the total population, reflecting the changing age structure of the population as well as substantial increases in the labor market activity of women. A major difference between the two countries is that male participation in the labor force has risen in Mexico while declining in the U.S.

In the United States-Mexico border region, many of the changes in labor force participation have been even more pronounced than in either nation as a whole. Labor force participation rates of women in particular have risen dramatically on both sides of the border. In addition, declines in military employment have had a significant impact on participation on the U.S. side of the border.

The economic characteristics of the border regions of the two countries differ from those of the nations of which they are parts, a major source of distinction being the level of income. The U.S. border region has lower income than the U.S. average, but higher income than the Mexican border region. The latter area, in turn, is characterized by higher income than the Mexican average. These income differentials are undoubtedly related to differences in the supply and demand for labor. Labor force participation combines with wage rates and hours of work to determine the amount of a labor's income.

In the following section, the border regions of the two countries are defined and the data sources are described. The second and third sections concern trends in labor force participation on both sides of the international boundary. In the fourth and fifth sections there is a discussion of the labor market activity of men and women along the border. The final section contains a summary and conclusions.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229