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One chart that explains the U.S. border crisis

2014 Ranking of Social Inclusion, AS/COA

This summer, a considerable amount of attention has fallen on the alarming influx of Central American migrants attempting to cross over into the United States from across the Mexican border, including some 57,000 unaccompanied minors this year alone. The bulk of these migrants come from the impoverished "northern triangle" of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries that suffer from some of the hemisphere's worst crime and poverty rates.

The bleak situation there is borne out by the rankings of the 2014 Americas Quarterly Social Inclusion Index (shown above), which was published Tuesday by the New York City and Washington-based Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA). The index weighs a complicated array of 21 factors, ranging from the country's economic prosperity to the vitality of its civil society to its protection of human rights to access to jobs and decent housing. For two years in a row, Honduras and Guatemala have finished at the bottom of the pile. This is from the organization's press release sent to journalists:

This year’s Index exposes a toxic mix of high poverty rates, lack of opportunities, gender and race disparities, and very low access to formal jobs and education, which is at the root of the growing numbers of unaccompanied youth from Central America entering the United States.

The published study includes a series of handy report cards scoring individual nations on the various variables selected for the index. (Depending on data available for each nation, some spots are left blank.)


“In Honduras, only 10.8 percent of women and 5.1 percent of males have access to a formal job," Alana Tummino, AS/COA director of policy and Americas Quarterly senior editor, says in the press release.


"In Guatemala, while numbers are slightly higher, there are substantial discrepancies when looking at race and ethnicity—there is a huge gap between minority and non-minority access to formal jobs," Tummino adds.


Tummino concludes: “We need to continue to push the idea to governments that a more inclusive society will lead to greater gains in social, political, and economic growth.” (The full report is worth reading. The United States, while it ranks highest for GDP spent on social programs, was penalized in the rankings for not tracking "femicide," or statistics on the murder of women.)

In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Honduran President Orlando Hernandez indicated that the United States also shouldered responsibility for the influx. The heavy-handedness of the American-led war on drugs -- and the nation's vast appetite for illegal narcotics -- "generates violence, reduces opportunities, generates migration."

The Obama administration secured new funds to fortify the border, but Central American leaders also insist that that won't stop the exodus. "If they want to attack the root of the problem, I think that they need to think about making investments in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras,” said Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina in an interview with The Post. “With just 10 percent of the money that you’re investing on the U.S. border, it could be spent at minimum in the three countries, and I’m confident that it would be much more profitable than investing it on border security or border control with Mexico."

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.

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