Average Poverty Rate Is Twice as High for U.S. Counties Bordering Mexico as for Rest of U.S.

By Dan Joseph | December 16, 2010 | 4:05 AM EST

Border vehicle fence in New Mexico (El Paso district). (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

(CNSNews.com)U.S. counties that border Mexico have an average poverty rate that is about twice as high as the national average.

According to the Census Bureau’s Small Area Poverty and Income Estimates for 2009, the average percentage of those living below the poverty level in the 23 counties that border Mexico is 28.3 percent.

That’s approximately twice as high as--or 14 percent above--the national average of 14.3 percent. Similarly the average median household income for these counties is $34,354 -- more than $15,000 below the national average of $50,221.

Only two of the 23 border counties -- San Diego County, Calif., at 12.5 percent poverty, and Jeff [not Jefferson] Davis County, Texas, at 13.6 percent poverty -- were below the national average.

The other 21 counties exceeded the national average:

CALIFORNIA: Imperial County (22.8 percent poverty income);

ARIZONA: Cochise County (16 percent); Pima County (18.9); Santa Cruz County (25); Yuma County (19.2)

NEW MEXICO: Dona Ana County (24.8 poverty); Hidalgo County (23.6); Luna County (30.5)

TEXAS: Brewster County (17.3); Cameron County (34); Culberson County (22.9); El Paso County (23.7); Hidalgo County (23.6); Hudspeth County (29.8); Kinney County (20.7); Maverick County (29.8); Presidio County (23.6); Starr County (38.5); Terrell County (18.8); Val Verde County (24.5) and Webb (30.9 percent).

Average median household income was lowest in Starr County, Texas, at $22, 418 and highest in San Diego County, Calif., at $60,103.

Income for other border counties: Imperial (Calif.) - $37,846; Cochise (Ariz.) - $43,786; Pima (Ariz.) - $43,243; Santa Cruz (Ariz.) - $35,545; Yuma (Ariz.) - $38,251; Dona Ana (N.M.) - $35,541; Hidalgo (N.M.) - $30,153; Luna (N.M.) - $25,833; Brewster (Texas) - $34,758; Cameron (Texas) - $30,760; Culberson (Texas) - $30,085; El Paso (Texas) - $36,078; Hidalgo (Texas) - $30,360; Hudspeth (Texas) - $27,053; Jeff Davis (Texas) - $38,166; Kinney (Texas) - $34,777; Maverick (Texas) - $27,446; Presidio (Texas) - $28,636; Terrell (Texas) - $30,926; Val Verde (Texas) - $31,243 and Webb (Texas) - $37,140.                                  

Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), says that the influx of illegal immigrants coming across the Mexican border can not fully account for the discrepancy between poverty in border towns and the national average, but it is clearly a factor.

“There could be many factors but certainly immigration is having an effect,” Mehlman said in an interview with CNSNews.com.

Poverty rates are exacerbated by the fact that those who do come illegally into the United States from Mexico tend to be poor, uneducated low-skill workers.

“You look at the economic data about immigrants who have arrived in this country over the last 10 or 20 years and overall they are doing significantly less well than the population generally,” Mehlman said.

“We are basically receiving a lot of people in this country who don’t come with the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

Mehlman also pointed out that while border areas still have high concentrations of immigrants, similar immigrant communities are now being seen in localities that are far removed from the places where immigrants have traditionally settled in the past.

“More and more they are filtering out across the country,” he added. “Until 10 or 15 years ago, illegal immigration and immigration in general was concentrated in a few areas of the country -- the border areas, gateway cites like New York. Now it’s becoming much more of a national phenomenon and you see pockets of high immigration accompanied by many of the same conditions you see along the border all across the country today.”  

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