Special Report

America's Busiest Border Towns

Each year, millions of trucks and trains transport $1 trillion in goods into and out of the U.S. through the largest ports of entry across the borders with Mexico and Canada. Of the $580 billion worth of good imported in the U.S., $320 billion went through just 10 ports. Similarly, of the 10.4 million trucks that crossed into the U.S. in 2011, 7.6 million went through just 10 ports. Based on data provided by the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 24/7 Wall st. reviewed the 10 busiest border towns in the country.

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By far, the largest import into the country in 2011 was mineral fuels like oil, which accounted for $147 billion, or a full quarter, of the total national imports. In addition to fuels, other top imports include computers and computer parts, cars and other vehicles, and electrical machinery. Together, the four account for more than half of all U.S. imports.

The importance of the international ports to these towns is seen in the  employment breakdown in these areas. In the El Paso and Laredo metro regions, 7.4% and 12.4% of workers respectively were employed in the transportation and warehousing sector in 2011. Only 14 cities of the more than 350 U.S. metro areas have a higher proportion of workers employed in this sector.

While the presence of a major border crossing comprises a large part of many of these regional economies, this does not mean they are booming. For example, in Laredo, Texas, where more than 15% of all truck traffic into the U.S. in 2011 took place, just shy of a third of all residents live below the poverty line. This is the third-highest rate of any major metropolitan area in the country. Hidalgo, Texas, another high-traffic border city, is part of the McAllen metropolitan statistical area — the poorest area in the country.

Part of the reason for the high poverty rate in some of these border towns, particularly the southern ones, is likely the proximity to Mexico and the large number of recent immigrants in these cities. More than a quarter of residents in McAllen, Laredo, and El Paso are foreign-born, and most of these are relatively poor immigrants from Mexico. In McAllen, more than 30% of the population are non-native citizens. In the U.S. as a whole, that number is just 13%.

Based on data from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics covering border crossings and the method of entry used, 24/7 Wall St. determined the busiest borders in the nation based on the number of trucks entering the U.S. via that town’s port. We also used BTS figures to analyze exports and imports and commodities trade across these border areas. Other figures relating to income, poverty and residents’ citizenship are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.

These are America’s busiest border towns.

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