It´s the structure, stupid!

Almost a year ago, while on a business trip in Los Angeles, I was discussing a project with my associates to buy farms in California so that production was increased throughout the year. One of our partners stressed the fact that, despite the complaints from many employers south of the border, Mexican workers were very efficient in the U.S.

It was not the first time I heard a comment like that. I was told to be very careful when it comes to hire people in Mexico. In contrast, labor force coming from the same place is highly valued by American companies.

That day, the meeting turned into a lasting discussion. After all, how can the same person behave so differently across the border? I began to pay attention to little details in every business trip. For example, I realized that I tended to be more respectful of traffic signals in the U.S. than I was in Mexico.

On the other hand, I looked at people´s progress. There is a remarkable story of a man born in the U.S. whose parents are Mexican immigrants. As a child, he worked throughout the fields of California, harvesting crops. He once dreamed of being an astronaut and recently was hired by NASA, becoming the first person to use Spanish language in space. Would he have accomplished it if he had stayed in Mexico? It hurts me to say probably not.

There is an answer behind these mysteries. Differences across the border are not due culture or genetics, like I once thought while at undergraduate school. It is rather about structures and institutions that create rules and values; and it is also about government decisions and policies that enable people to have more and better opportunities.