Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Numbers, numbers everywhere!

While slugging it out with the Round 'em Up and Stack 'em Like Cordwood on the Border to Make a Fence gang over at Polipundit I was pointed, by a commenter (Many hundreds of thousands of American citizens live here..."

I had no idea so many Americans lived in Mexico but found "many hundreds of thousands" a bit too inexact for my tastes and curiosity so I went poking around to see if I could narrow down "many hundreds". So naturally I started googling. The search hasn't been very satisfying for tracking down some number, but it did turn up the blog of one Bill Masterson, the People's Guide to Mexico.

Bill takes a look at HOW MANY AMERICANS LIVE IN MEXICO? That link is actually his "Question Revisited" update of his first look at the matter. Both articles are, IMHO, interesting and worth the clicks and few minutes. According to Bill:

Published: 2000

How many Americans live in Mexico? 600,000? 500,000? Less? More?

Americans (as well as the rest of the world) are becoming more comfortable with Mexico. As the relationships between the North American countries grow closer, more Americans than ever before are considering a move to Mexico, whether it be for retirement, to start a business, look for work or just to travel. One of the key factors that comes into play when most people consider moving to another country is how many of their fellow countrymen are already there. For all of our professed desire for independence, when push comes to shove, most of us really want to be in relatively close proximity to some people who are similar to us.

It is often said that more Americans live in Mexico than in any other country. Several documents published by the U.S. Department of State say that, "More than 500,000 Americans currently reside in Mexico". This same figure is often quoted in travel articles written for newspapers and magazines. Travel and retirement guides quote similar numbers.

Persons promoting the Lake Chapala area of the state of Jalisco as a retirement-living option for foreigners claim that "more than 200,000 Americans live in Jalisco, the largest English-speaking population in the world, outside of the United States", and "60,000 Americans live along the shores of Lake Chapala."...

Bill's own experiences in Mexico led him to suspect the number was less. So he set about trying to find out what the number actually is. Along the way he discovered that apparently neither the US nor Mexican governments seem to know or care very much. He finds estimates ranging from the 500,000 number to as high as 1,000,000 with 600,000 living in Mexico City. He dismisses this high estimate as "sloppy research" by some PhD candidate at some US university (read it if you care). Where Bill eventually winds up is:

As I stated at the beginning of this article, these new population projections of Americans residing in Mexico "appear to be nothing more than the byproduct of sloppy research."; that’s the bad news. Rather than helping to answer the question, these "projections" only cause confusion and mislead people. Although I'm open to the proposition of being corrected by numbers that can reasonably be substantiated, I've seen nothing over the course of the past year that would cause me to change the opinion I expressed in my prior article, that, "the best factual estimate of Americans living in Mexico is below 150,000." (emphasis mine).

The good news -– from a data gathering viewpoint -– is that the national identity card and the data it might produce ought to narrow the range of numbers being bandied-about, and offer a better idea as to how many citizen-residents are residing in which parts of Mexico. Barring unforeseen revelations on the subject, it looks as if we'll all just have to sit and wait and see what results from the national ID card program. This program, however, is bound to be controversial in the expat community and, like most government programs in any country, is likely to get off to a shaky start.

Along the way he does a reasonable job of telling us who cares and why as well as suggesting a possible explanation for the disparity (undocumented "visitors"). While reading his articles and a link or two I got the impression from these expat types (Bill apparently returned to the US) that Americans are somewhat notorious for ignoring the immigration laws wherever they go.


Anonymous said...

While reading his articles and a link or two I got the impression from these expat types (Bill apparently returned to the US) that Americans are somewhat notorious for ignoring the immigration laws wherever they go.

Anecdotally, I know from friends who have lived there or live there now that the Mexicans aren't at all apt to ignore their own immigration laws when it comes to the citizens of Gringolandia coming south. We are talking good old fashioned Napoleonic Code bureaucracy here. Lots of triplicate copies and rubber stamps.

So one would think that there are lots and lots of numbers - someplace. Getting them - now that is a different story. I'm inclined to believe the 150,000.

Anonymous said...

Here you go.

This is somewhat dated, from 2000. And from where are they coming? This would include all the Central Americans and others who are doing the jobs that Mexicans don't want to do. Gringos as 150,000 of that?

INEGI is a great source if you have the patience to wade through it.

truepeers said...

"more than 200,000 Americans live in Jalisco, the largest English-speaking population in the world, outside of the United States"

-this one has me scratching; i know all the jokes about a certain people's geographical ignorance, but is this a sign of such, or is it merely playing to it? Alternatively, could it be the convoluted logic of someone with poor English who is saying that this is the largest American ex-pat communuity outside of the US, with the exception of the Spanish-speaking Mexican-American-Mexicans?

MeaninglessHotAir said...

It's my understanding that the largest English-speaking population in the world is in China. What is this guy saying?

David Thomson said...

It has been my understanding that local Mexicans have gone out of their way to encourage Americans to live in their area of the country. They make sure that these citizens of the United States are not harassed by the local politicians and police officers seeking bribes.

Knucklehead said...


I noticed that one and laughed it off figuring they had to mean "largest US expat population outside of the US" rather than "English speaking". I think our cousins across the pond could come up with an example or ten of gatherings of English speaking people larger than 200,000 outside the US. Write it off to "retirement village sales department hyperbole".

MHA, I would guess that India has China beat for largest number of English speakers. I could be wrong though. Hong Kong, though, probably easily beats out Jalisco.

Knucklehead said...


I suspect you were being tongue in cheek about that. I did hear some report the other day about some Mexican village (or villages) where the women were all for the US rounding up and deporting our Mexican illegals. They wanted the men of working age back to do their share of the chores.

How many wealthy American retirees do you think it will take to turn the tables and start luring the illegals back there to keep the golf-courses and pools clean and repair the roofs and such? I'm estimating about 3 million.

David Thomson said...

“I suspect you were being tongue in cheek about that.”

No, not at all. I’ve heard of areas where Americans have it made. Their living expenses are very low and the local Mexicans do what they can to make them happy. I actually expect more retired Americans will move into Mexico---as long as the corrupt police and politicians leave them alone. Where in the United States can you live like a king and queen on a mere $1,000 a month?

terrye said...

My brother in law worked for the DEA for years and he lived in Mexico City with his family for awhile. Apparently there is a large American community inside the city. Two of my nieces were born there and lived there long enough to learn to speak Spanish as well as English.

The other day I was speaking to a young woman who went to a medical clinic in Rio Bravo that is run by an American doctor. She went all the way from Indiana to Rio Bravo Mexico to have her tubal ligation reversed. She said there were several Aericans living there and it seemed that people went back and forth across the border as a matter of course.

Since the border has been open for all these years I doubt if there is any way to be sure how many Americans are down there.

And you are brave to deal with this issue on polipundit. Poli has lost all sense of perspective when it comes to immigration. I am not talking about a lack of willingness to compromise or debate, I mean just plain beyond discussion.

Knucklehead said...

Not brave, Terrye, but dumb. An exercise in futility that I can't seem to keep myself from repeating.

Anonymous said...

Who do you think is managing the formerly-American factories in Mexico?

What about all our American fugitives who make their home south of the border?

If you are retired and adventurous, why not go to Mexico?

Aren't there U.S. military bases in Mexico?

Can't people still self-prescribe medicines in Mexico? If you're poor in America and work in a factory with Mexicans, you might as well move to Mexico.

Khaki Scott said...

In 2007, the immigration office in Merida, Yucatan, reported approximately 500 applications per month for permanent residency in Mexico. They also reported a total of 15,000 homes sold to foreigners that year. and they keep right on coming...