Cross-Border Consumption of Informal and Underground Goods: A Case Study of Alternative Consumerism in South Texas


  • This article was previously presented at the research workshop on border economics during the panel for border research on economic integration of the Border Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, El Paso Branch, NOBE/REF, and the University of Texas—Pan American held on December 1, 2011 (Edinburg, Texas). I would like to thank Dr. Marie Mora, University of Texas—Pan American, Dr. Jana Pisani, Ferris State University, and the conference participants for their constructive and helpful comments.

Direct correspondence to Michael J. Pisani, Professor of International Business, 204C Smith Hall, College of Business Administration, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859 〈〉.



To explore the determinants of informal consumption of cross-border goods from the South Texas-Mexico border. Twelve select informal and underground goods are examined.


Derived from extensive interviews, a unique (and purposive) data set of 357 consumers from the South Texas borderlands was collected in the summer of 2010.


Nearly two-thirds (64.6 percent) of borderlands consumers have engaged in, at one time or another, the purchase and consumption of cross-border informal goods. The rate is 44.1 percent for the consumption of cross-border underground goods. An important determinant in the cross-border consumption of informal goods is one's self-reported morals for buying “off the books.” This relationship is inversely bound. Immigration status, Spanish-language ability, education, civil status, and residence location all inform participation in the consumption of informal cross-border goods.


The South Texas-Mexico border clearly acts as a lever for the cross-border consumption of informal and underground goods.