Review of higher education in regional and city development 2008-10: The Paso del Norte Region in brief




The region under review:
boundaries, geography and population

Paso del Norte is a cross-border region between two sovereign countries: the United States of America and the United States of Mexico. It is the largest bi-national and bi-lingual metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere.

Three major urban areas form the Paso del Norte region:

  • the City of El Paso, Texas, United States
  • the City of Las Cruces (Doña Ana County), New Mexico, United States
  • Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico

El Paso and Ciudad Juarez are separated by a redirected Rio Grande and connected by 5 land bridges. El Paso/Juarez is a major port of entry for international commerce and daily interaction of people on the two sides of the border.

About 2.3 million people live in Paso del Norte: about 31% in the El Paso metropolitan area, about 60% in Juarez, Chihuahua and 9% in the Las Cruces metropolitan area.

El Paso experiences considerable brain drain. Between 1996 and 2000 the number of educated members of the labour force leaving the county exceeded the number of the incoming. Doña Ana County has a negative net migration rate for people with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.


Figure 1: El Paso County (TX, US), Doña Ana County (NM, US), Chiudad Juarez (Chihuahua, Mexico)




The United States and Mexico are both federal republics. The power is vertically divided between the federal, the state and the local level. The President is Head of State and Chief of Government.

The United States has 50 states and one district. Mexico has 31 states and one Federal District, and close to 2 500 municipalities.
The states have a representation in the legislative bodies of both countries. The United States Congress is divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate, in which the states are represented. In Mexico, the bicameral congress (Congreso de la Unión) is divided into the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) and the Senate (Cámara de Senadores), in which the states are represented.

In the US, the administration of government planning and higher education policy development is decentralized. The national government may set goals for attainment and proficiency, but the implementation and execution is generally a state and local responsibility.

In Mexico, tertiary education governance, co-ordination and regulation take place at the federal and state level depending on the type of HEI; there are federal as well as state institutions. 

At the federal level, the Ministry of Public Education (Secretaría de Educación Pública - SEP) regulates HE. At the state level, tertiary education co-ordination is the responsibility of the respective state ministry. The federal level is responsible for ensuring appropriate standards and the allocation of public funds to all the public institutions (OECD 2008).



Manufacturing, retail, services, government, health care and education comprise the major functions of the regional economy. Heavy industry continues to play a key role (petroleum refinery and cement industry).

The regional technology infrastructure is one of the most advanced in Northern America. While call centers have become a major feature in El Paso, US, light manufacturing in electronics and plastics continue to expand in Juarez, Mexico.

Ciudad Juarez’s workforce is primarily employed in the manufacturing sector (58%), professional and business services (12%), and the retail sector (11%).

In El Paso, 23% of the workforce are employed by the government, 21% work in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. The education and health care sector as well as the professional and business services sector employ about 12% each; only 7% work in manufacturing.

In Las Cruces, the largest share of the labour force is employed by government (30%). 16% work in Education and Health Services and another 15% are employed in the trade, transportation and utilities sector; less than 5% work in manufacturing.

In Juarez, the estimated per capita GDP was approximately $8,000 in 2003. 

The per capita income in El Paso County ($24,977) and Doña Ana County ($24,293) was in 2006 below their respective states’ average and reached only about two thirds of the national average ($36,714). Additionally, the per capita personal income grows more slowly in Doña Ana and El Paso compared to Texas and the US.


Further reading and useful links | Back to the Paso del Norte's start page | HE in Paso del Norte

HE and regions start page


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