Dr. Marie T. Mora, economics professor at The University of Texas-Pan American, is becoming a regular visitor to Washington, D.C., to provide her advice to the current administration on stimulating economic growth nationwide.
In early October, Mora, who is past president of the American Society of Hispanic Economists (ASHE) and an expert on labor market issues, particularly on the U.S.-Mexico border and Hispanic labor market outcomes, was invited to attend the meeting in the White House by Cecilia Elena Rouse, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and William Spriggs, assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Labor.
Last year, Mora, who led ASHE for four years and is an eight-year faculty member in the Department of Economics and Finance in UTPA's College of Business Administration, met with the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and other labor department officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss conditions of and policies that impact employment among Hispanics.
Mora described the October 2010 meeting as a brainstorming session regarding African-American and Hispanic employment. She said the discussion touched upon a wide range of topics including education; training; credit access, particularly for small businesses; asset building; housing and neighborhood stabilization; trade and tourism; and transportation and infrastructure.
Other participants at the meeting included leading academic economists from the University of Michigan, University of California-Berkeley, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Florida State University, Rutgers University, and Georgetown University, among others.
Mora said considerable time at the meeting was spent on the impact of education and training.
"Hispanics and African-Americans have lower education levels on average, and it is becoming increasingly hard to find a good job without a college education. I mentioned that some focus should be on increasing high school graduation rates and looking into GED programs, as college (and community college) enrollments obviously depend on high school graduates," Mora said.
Mora said she did take the opportunity to highlight the importance of international tourism, particularly in our region, and the potential negative impact on that travel caused by current border security issues and U.S. immigration policies.
"It is my sense that people outside of the border region do not understand the interdependence the U.S. border communities have with their Mexican counterparts," she said. "Also, I have read that literally hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost nationwide in the 2000s due to a slowdown in international tourism-that a lot of Europeans have decided not to come here because of their concern over U.S. immigration officials, long lines, hassles, not feeling welcome, etc."
Mora, who remains on the ASHE board as its first vice president, helps to compile ASHE's quarterly Hispanic Economic Outlook Report, which is published on ASHE's website. In 2009, she co-authored and co-edited with her husband and frequent research collaborator, Dr. Alberto Davila, the V.F. and Gertrude M. Neuhaus Chair for Entrepreneurship at UTPA, the book, "Labor Market Issues along the U.S.-Mexico Border." The book was published by University of Arizona Press in December 2009.
It is anticipated, she said, according to labor department officials at the meeting, that there may be other sessions similar to this one in the future.
"It was an interesting experience, and I appreciated being asked," Mora said.