The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a bill implemented on January 1st, 1994. Presented by President Clinton, NAFTA wanted to introduce free unrestricted trade between everyone on the North American continent (U.S, Canada, and Mexico) to eliminate trade taxes and increase trade. The effects of NAFTA are debated fiercely as to whether the bill had a positive or negative effect. The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) is a border community that rests right on the border of Texas and Mexico and ps quite a ways both east and west; all the way to the gulf. Since the RGV was so close to one of the trade partners of the NAFTA agreement, significant effects occurred in the area. NAFTA had both direct and indirect effects on the RGV positively and negatively.
In 1990 the RGV was one tenth of what it is today. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area was ranked the 4th fastest growing population between 1990 and 2000, right around the time frame that NAFTA was enacted. From 2000 to 2010 it was ranked 10th fastest growing population. According to the U.S census, the RGV as a whole has grown from 1,194,819 million a 64% increase since 1990. Back then the RGV had a population greater than 9 states. If you consider the southern half of the Rioplex (The area surrounding the Rio Grande River) then that adds an extra 3 million people to the population of Southern Texas and the most northern tip of Mexico. Together, the Rioplex is larger than 25 U.S States. This growth starting in the early 1990’s to present is parallel to the NAFTA lifetime. Can it be directly correlated to the aforementioned growth in the RGV and Rioplex populations; absolutely. First one must know facts about the RGV before the said assertions can be made.
In the 1960’s the RGV was an agricultural society. Today, it is booming economically and growing at an exponential rate for a few specific reasons. The RGV has the 3rd lowest cost of living in the country. This makes it a wonderful site for seasonal living and vacationers. The valley is famous for its’ population of “Winter Texans,” northerners who come down to the valley every winter season to escape the cold from the north on their old joints. Cute as they may be they make up a respectable portion of the population every winter season and they bring their money with them which in turn helps the valley population. Aside from Winter Texans low cost of living and cheap housing here allows for Hipics to come across the border for a short amount of time and work for money to spend here at our large retail establishments like Wal-Mart and H.E.B to get cheap goods to take home to their families. The increase in the number of large retail stores to supplement the demand of the Winter Texans and visiting Hipics has created a large number of jobs that has successfully reduced the unemployment rate in the Rio Grande Valley from 24% to a smaller 8%.
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Who might be the ones taking up these jobs? The youth of the Valley are the ones taking up the majority of these entry level jobs needed to run the business. Over half of the Rio Grande Valley’s population is under the age 35. This is no coincidence due to the many appealing things about the valley to the young people who want to or are already living here. Cheap cost of living, access to college education via the new South Texas College (Made in 1993) and the University of Texas Pan American (Founded in 1927), rated 1st in technology sector growth in 08’, and CNN stated McAllen as “one of the best places to start a small business” in 2008 as well all attribute to the appeal of the RGV for young people. All these things come together to make up a great deal of the influx of youth in the RGV, for good reason. However due to the geography of the RGV the largest percentage of people in the area are Hipics. 84% of the population to be exact.
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