Friday, January 03, 2014

one million americans live in mexico

You have probably heard that line several times.  Especially, if you are an expatriate in Mexico.

There is just one problem.  It is simply not true.

I have always distrusted the accuracy of the figure.  Common sense said it was too high. 

And the people who seem to use it most often have a vested interest in pumping up the number -- real estate agents.  It ranks up there in accuracy with the internet myth that "6 million Americans died in Mexico last year."

The Mexican government has issued a pamphlet (Extranjeros Residente en México) that finally puts paid to the canard.  One million is not even a close answer

The first step, of course, is to determine the criteria to define what it means to "live" in Mexico.  The study comes to the logical conclusion that tourists are not residents.  Therefore, anyone who enters Mexico on a tourist visa is not defined as living in Mexico.

The data used in the study is from 2009 -- before the new visa system was put in place.  Residents are defined as anyone holding either an Inmigrante visa (FM2) or a No Inmigrante visa (FM3).  The numbers are further refined to eliminate duplicate counts.

The result?  There were 262,672 foreigners living in Mexico on 31 October 2009 -- most of them (173,607) from the Americas.

The national breakdown is even more interesting.

  • USA: 59,996 (22.6%)
  • Spain: 18,551 (7.1%)
  • Argentina: 15,232 (5.8%)
  • Colombia: 14,610 (5.6%)
  • Canada: 10,869 (4.1%)
I suppose none of those numbers are very surprising.  The Canadian number sees low from our perspective in Melaque -- where the winter tourist population from Canada seems to be 80 to 85% of the total foreigners.  But that simply underlines the study's methodology.  Tourists are not residents.

The study also contains an interesting historical footnote.  In 1926, with the Revolution just over and another internal war under way, the number of foreign residents was 151,667.  The population of foreign residents had increased only by 51% in the 83 years between 1926 and 2009.

The split in 1926?

  • Spain: 48,558 (32.0%)
  • China: 24,818 (16.4%)
  • USA: 15,219 (10.0%)
  • Lebanon: 12,645 (8.3%) (including the family of Carlos Slim)
  • Germany: 6,961 (4.6%)
  • Canada: 6,447 (4.2%)
The booklet is filled with enough statistics to keep a bureaucrat at the United Nations in ecstasy for many a night.  Maps on the location of foreigners.  Their activity in the country.  Sex.  Age.  Maybe not as much as the NSA knows about you.  But it is all interesting.

We may be fewer than the real estate types believe, but we are here to enjoy life.  Not merely to be an economic indicator in someone else's business plan.

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