Mexico’s population pyramid (age-sex diagram) for 2010

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Mar 102011

The population pyramid for Mexico in 2010 is shown below:

Mexico's population pyramid, 2010. Data: INEGI

What does this pyramid tell us about Mexico’s population and possible future trends?

The number of babies born during the last 20 years has been more or less equal for each 5-year period. This is despite a higher number of females in the age-bearing categories (15-45). These two statements, taken together, must imply that both birth rates (number of births/1,000 people) and fertility rates (number of children per female of child-bearing age) have fallen and continue to fall.

There are numerous implications for a population with a declining number of babies. Perhaps the most obvious is that fewer school places will be required in ten years time than are currently needed. In Mexico’s case, it is unlikely that school buildings will be closed (at least not in the short to mid-term) since many government-run schools currently house two independent school populations, one attending classes every morning, and the other attending classes in the afternoons.

The decline in babies also means that the average age of Mexico’s population continues to rise. The median age of Mexico’s 112.3 million inhabitants is now 26 years (i.e. half the population is older than 26 years, the other half is 26 years or younger).

Several chapters of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discuss additional insights into Mexico’s population dynamics and trends, and their implications for future development. An earlier post here includes a link to a pdf file showing Mexico’s population pyramid in 1990, and the predicted pyramid for 2050. The 2050 pyramid shows just how fast Mexico’s population will age if present trends continue.

The 10 states in Mexico with the lowest male-female ratios

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Feb 072011

In an earlier post, we looked at the ten states with the highest male-female ratios (ie the most males for every 100 females). This time we turn our attention to the ten states with the lowest male-female ratios (or the most females for every 100 males). Male-female ratios are sometimes referred to as “sex ratios”, though that term does not indicate clearly whether the values are males for every 100 females (the usual interpretation) or females for every 100 males.

States with low male-female ratios

The 10 states with the lowest male-female ratios

Male-female ratios are an important demographic statistic and reflect numerous environmental, economic and social factors. In turn, they influence many aspects of economic and social geography. This Wikipedia entry on Human Sex Ratio offers a general introduction to some of the geography associated with male-female ratios.

The table and map show the 10 states in Mexico with the lowest male-female ratios.

RankStatemale-female ratio (males/100 females)number of females per 100 males
1=Federal District91.8108.9

What do these states have in common?

The short answer would appear to be not very much, apart from forming a band across central Mexico!

The Federal District may offer far more employment opportunities for females than for males. Females who live in other states may be more likely to migrate to Mexico City in search of employment than to attempt the more complicated migration to the USA which has become the preferred option for many young males.

Oaxaca, along with Guanajuato and Michoacán, has a high rate of out-migration. In most situations, demographers consider that males are more more likely to migrate than females. This gender imbalance in migration would leave a low male-female ratio at the place of origin. Out-migration may also explain why Morelos and Tlaxcala, two of the smallest states in Mexico, are on the list.

In conclusion, while male-females ratios are an important population statistic, it is not necessarily always easy to explain them, especially when considering a country as complex as Mexico.

Relevant posts previously published on this blog:

Several chapters of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discuss population issues, including population growth, distribution, gender differences and density. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!

The 10 states in Mexico with the highest male-female ratios

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Jan 312011

Male-female ratios are a useful way of looking at population dynamics. They may reflect, or may influence, many aspects of social and economic geography from employment opportunities to rates and age of civil partnerships (including marriage).

In 2010, only four states in Mexico had more males than females: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Quintana Roo (see table).

RankStateMale-Female ratio (males/100 females)
1Baja California Sur104.5
2Quintana Roo103.3
3Baja California101.8
6Nuevo León99.4

States with high male-female ratios

The ten states with the highest male-female ratios (2010)

What do these states, at opposite extremes of the country, have in common?

They are among the most economically dynamic states. All except Sonora have a vibrant tourism sector, where employment opportunities in the construction sector (mainly for young males) have offered young people an alternative to migrating north of the border.

Sonora has a more mixed economy,which includes an important mining sector (another predominantly male source of employment), as well as agriculture, manufacturing and some tourism.

In a future post, and to avoid any accusation of gender bias, we will look at the states which have the highest proportion of females (i.e. the lowest male-female ratios, the lowest number of males/100 females).

Several chapters of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discuss population issues, including population growth, distribution, gender differences and density. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!

Population change in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area

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Jan 252011

The preliminary results of Mexico’s 2010 population census reveal that the population residing in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area (GMA) increased from 3.7 million in 2000 to 4.4 million in 2010. The census results also show clearly that the GMA is continuing to experience the effects of suburbanization and counter-urbanization.

Suburbanization is the gradual spread of the urban area into the surrounding rural areas. The built-up area of Guadalajara is spreading mainly to the south and west. The north-eastern part of the city is unable to spread beyond its existing extent because it is hemmed in by the precipitous canyon of the River Santiago, often referred to as La Barranca de los Oblatos (Oblates‘ Canyon).

Counter-urbanization is the movement of city dwellers into smaller settlements in the surrounding countryside. With time, some of these smaller settlements are eventually engulfed by the spreading city. The precise boundaries of large metropolitan areas such as the GMA are therefore subject to almost constant change. The map below shows the population change for Guadalajara and its surrounding municipalities for the period 2000-2010.

Guadalajara Metropolitan Area
Population change in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, 2000-2010. Click to enlarge.

Note, first, that the population of Guadalajara proper (the municipality of that name) has actually declined significantly since 2000, from 1,647,720 to 1,494,134.

The city is not bounded by the municipal boundary, but spreads into several adjoining municipalities (see map), all of which have experienced population growth between 2000 and 2010. The municipality of Tlaquepaque was already “built up”, even prior to 2000, and its population has risen only slowly since that date. The slowest rate of growth (excluding the “negative growth” of Guadalajara) is in Zapopan; this is a complete change from 30 years ago when Zapopan was growing very rapidly as Guadalajara expanded westwards.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Guadalajara also spread into Tonalá and El Salto. El Salto, relatively close to Guadalajara’s international airport, and close to the main Guadalajara-Mexico City highway, is the heart of a major industrial corridor.  Its main focus in recent years has been on high-tech firms; the region is often referred to as “Mexico’s Silicon Valley”. Firms with manufacturing and/or assembly plants in or close to El Salto include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, General Electric, Intel, Hitachi, Siemens, Flextronics and Solectron. The El Salto area has seen moderate growth over the last ten years.

By far the most dramatic rates of growth for 2000-2010 occurred in Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos. and in Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, which more than tripled its population in just ten years, from 123,220 to 416,552. Tlajomulco is a very old settlement indeed, with considerable historical importance. The spread of Guadalajara’s suburbs into the northern part of Tlajomulco has been astonishingly rapid, and represents a classic case of the process of suburbanization. Meanwhile, the population of the long-established settlement of Tlajomulco (further south in the eponymous municipality) has also risen rapidly as some urban dwellers choose, in the process of counter-urbanization, to live slightly outside the main urban sprawl of Guadalajara. The counter-urban movement is strongest in the settlements relatively close to the city, but now extends at least 50 km to the south, to the villages on the northern shore of Lake Chapala.

What will 2010-2020 bring? There are few signs that the building boom along the southern edge of Guadalajara Metropolitan Area is going to come to a halt any time soon. The state of Jalisco plans to construct an “outer ring road” south of the city. The planned route passes very close to the settlement of Tlajomulco. It is surely only a question of time before Tlajomulco, and various other small towns and villages, are swallowed up by the continuing expansion of Mexico’s second largest city.

Dec 122010

The map below shows the average number of inhabitants per household (“household size”) for each of Mexico’s states.

The national average household size is 3.9 persons. The middle band on the map shows those states with household size between 3.7 and 4.0 inclusive. The darkest shade shows states with a household size of 4.1 or greater; the lightest shade shows those with a household size of 3.6 or smaller.

Average household size in Mexico, 2010

Average household size in Mexico, 2010. Cartography: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

Discussion questions:

  • Compare this map with the maps of:
  1. potable water,
  2. GDP/person
  3. infant mortality
  • Discuss the possible reasons for any connections you note between household size, potable water, GDP/person and infant mortality.
  • What other factors might also affect household sizes?
  • What are the drawbacks to using any of these measures (household size, potable water, GDP/person, infant mortality) on their own as a development indicator?

Development indices of various kinds are discussed in chapters 29 and 30 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your local library to purchase a copy today!

Map of population change in Mexico, 2000-2010

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Dec 072010

The publication of the preliminary results from this year’s population census has allowed us to update our map of Mexico’s recent population change (Figure 8.3 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico). We are delighted to bring you what may be the first map to be published anywhere in the world of Mexico’s population change over the past decade:

Annual % population change in Mexico, 2000-2010

Annual % population change in Mexico, 2000-2010. Cartography: Tony Burton, all rights reserved.

The pattern on this map for 2000-2010 shows that population change over this period has been broadly similar to that for the period 1970-2005 (Figure 8.3 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico). Mexico’s total population has grown by an average of 1.52%/yr over the past decade.

Things to note:

The fastest growth rates are in Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, both states where tourism continues to develop rapidly and attract more migrants.

The slowest rates are in the Federal District (Mexico D.F.), Michoacán and Sinaloa, all of which have rates of less than 1%/yr. Michoacán’s low rate of increase is an anomaly, given the state’s high birth rate, and must be due to out-migration.

In central Mexico, the state of Querétaro stands out as being the most dynamic state in population terms, registering a growth of more than 3%/yr over the last decade.

Discussion Question: How does this map compare to the map of GDP/person?

Several chapters of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discuss population issues, including population growth, distribution and density. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!

How many Mexicans are there? The preliminary figures from Mexico’s 2010 national population census

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Nov 262010

The National Statistics Institute (INEGI) has released the preliminary figures from Mexico’s 2010 national population census. INEGI claims that its 190,000 census workers were able to visit 98.4% of all homes in the country. The lowest response rates were 91.3% and 91.5% respectively in the troubled northern border states of Tamaulipas and Chihuahua.

The highlights of the preliminary results

The preliminary results of the 2010 census reveal some interesting changes.

First, Mexico’s total population in 2010 is  112,322,757. This is almost 4 million higher than INEGI’s pre-census estimates. The population total means that Mexico remains the world’s 11th most populous country.

Mexico has now become a markedly urban society. Whereas a hundred years ago, in 1910, 71.3% of the then population of 15.2 millions lived in rural areas (defined as municipalities with fewer than 2,500 inhabitants), in 2010, 62.6% of all Mexicans live in one of the country’s 56 largest metropolitan areas (as defined by INEGI). The largest single metropolitan area is the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (which extends into the State of Mexico) with a population of 20.1 million.

The density of population has changed over the last century as well. In 1910, the overall density of population was 8 persons/square kilometer. In 2010, the density of population was 57 persons/square kilometer (with Mexico D.F. having the highest value in Mexico of 5,937 inhabitants/square kilometer!).

Emigration in search of work, and a declining maternal mortality rate have completely changed Mexico’s male/female ratio. Whereas in 1910, there were 102.7 males for every 100 females, in 2010 there are  95.5 males for every 100 females.

As more figures are released in coming months, we will offer further insights into the changing geography of Mexico.

In the meantime, for a comprehensive summary of Mexico’s geography, including several chapters about Mexico’s population, ask Santa Claus, a friend or family member to give you a copy of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. What better seasonal gift could there possibly be?

Which states in Mexico have the highest infant mortality rates?

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Nov 122010

Infant mortality is the number of deaths of infants (aged less than 1 year old) for every 1,000 live births. It is widely regarded as a very useful development indicator, and is one of the statistics used when calculating compound (multifactor) development indices. The Federal District has the lowest infant mortality rate in the county – 13.8, ahead of Nuevo León (14.0), Coahuila (14.8) and Baja California (14.9).

RankStateInfant mortality rate
25San Luis Potosí20.5

The table lists the 11 states in Mexico which have the highest rates of infant mortality. No other state has an infant mortality rate of 20.0 or higher. The map clearly reveals that these states are mostly in the south of Mexico, a long way from the USA border.

Map of infant mortality

The eleven states with the highest infant mortality rates

Compare this map with the map of GDP/person. Are there any states which appear to be anomalies to the general rule that GDP/person and infant mortality rates are inversely related?

Development indices of various kinds are discussed in chapters 29 and 30 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your local library to purchase a copy today!

What questions were asked in Mexico’s 2010 population census?

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Nov 082010

In mid-2010, Mexico held a general census of its population and households. The majority of census respondents were required to complete a “basic questionnaire” of 29 questions, with a smaller number (2.7 million) asked to complete a “full questionnaire” with 75 questions.

The questions asked in the basic questionnaire (with a summary of the options for each response)  included:

Characteristics of the dwelling:

  • What are the floors made of? (earth/cement or concrete/wood, tiles or other)
  • How many rooms are used for sleeping (excluding passages)?
  • How many rooms are there in total, including the kitchen, but excluding passages or bathrooms?
  • Does the dwelling have electricity?
  • What is the water supply? (piped municipal supply/stand pipe/water piped from another dwelling/periodic water trucked in/river, well or lake)
  • Is the dwelling connected to a sewage system or septic tank?
  • Does the toilet have running water/water from buckets/no water?
  • Which of the following do the occupants of the dwelling own? – radio/television/refrigerator/washing machine/vehicle/computer/fixed line telephone/cell phone/internet.

Characteristics of each person in the household:

  • Sex, age, relation to head of household
  • Place of birth (state, if born in Mexico, or country, if born elsewhere)
  • Which medical services if any, do the occupants have access to? (IMSS, ISSSTE, Pemex or Armed Services, private provider, other, none)
  • Religion
  • Limitations in daily life? (walking, moving/vision, even when wearing glasses or contacts/speaking/hearing even when wearing a hearing aid/dressing, bathing, eating/learning simple new tasks/any form of mental difficulty/none)
  • Name of any dialect or indigenous language (ie other than Spanish) spoken


  • Are you currently enrolled in school, college or university?
  • Level of education already completed
  • Can you read and write a simple message?
  • Where did you reside 5 years ago? (state in Mexico, or country if outside Mexico)
  • Civil status (single/married/separated/divorced/widowed)


  • Last week, did you work at least one hour/have a job, but not work/look for work
  • Are you retired/student/homemaker/unable to work through physical or mental incapacity


  • How many liveborn children have you had?
  • How many of these children have since died?

The first results from the 2010 census should be available from early next year. As results are published, Geo-Mexico will be updating facts and figures to highlight any important changes in Mexico’s geography.

Oct 222010

By common consent, the history of blacks in what-is-now Mexico is a long one. The first black slave to set foot in Mexico is thought to have been Juan Cortés. He accompanied the conquistadors in 1519. It has been claimed that some natives thought he must be a god, since they had never seen a black man before.

A few years later, six blacks are believed to have taken part in the successful siege of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Several hundred other blacks formed part of the wandering, fighting forces employed in the name of the Spanish crown to secure other parts of New Spain.[1]

The indigenous population crashed in the first hundred years following the conquest, largely as a result of smallpox and other European diseases. Estimates of the native population prior to the conquest range from 4 to 30 million. A century later, there were just 1.6 million.

afromexico-coverNew Spain had been conquered by a ludicrously small number of Spaniards. To retain control and in order to begin exploiting the potential riches of the virgin territory they had won, a good supply of laborers was essential. There were not enough locals, so imports of slaves became a high priority.

By 1570, almost 35% of all the mine workers in the largest mines of Zacatecas and neighboring locations were African slaves. [2] Large numbers of slaves were also imported for the sugar plantations and factories in areas along the Gulf coast, such as Veracruz. By the mid-seventeenth century, some 8,000-10,000 blacks were Gulf coast residents. After this time, the slave trade to Mexico gradually diminished.

Miguel Hidalgo, the Independence leader, first demanded an end to slavery in 1810 (the same year that Upper Canada freed all slaves). Slavery was abolished by President Vicente Guerrero on September 15, 1829.

During the succeeding 36 years, prior to the abolition of slavery in the U.S. (1865), some U.S. slaves seized their chance and headed south in search of freedom and opportunity. Recognizing the potential, in 1831, one Mexican senator, Sánchez de Tagle, a signatory of the Act of Independence, called for assistance to be given to any blacks wanting to move south on the grounds that this movement would possibly prevent Mexico being invaded by white Americans. [3] Sánchez de Tagle’s point was that black immigrants would be strong supporters of Mexico since they wouldn’t want to be returned to slavery, and would be preferable to white Americans, who might be seeking an opportunity to annex parts of Mexico for their homeland. Sánchez de Tagle’s fears came to pass. One year after the U.S. annexed the slave-holding Republic of Texas in 1845, it invaded Mexico.

Perhaps as many as 4,000 blacks entered Mexico between 1840 and 1860. At the beginning of 1850, several states enacted a series of land concessions for black immigrants, in order that undeveloped areas with agricultural potential might be settled and farmed.

Even after the abolition of slavery in the U.S., small waves of blacks continued to arrive periodically in Mexico. Many came from the Caribbean after 1870 to help build the growing national railway network. In 1882, some 300 Jamaicans arrived to help build the San Luis Potosí-Tampico line; another 300 Jamaicans made the trip in 1905 to take jobs in mines in the state of Durango. [4] Partially as a response to their own independence struggles, thousands of Cubans came after 1895. They favored the tropical coastal lowlands such as Veracruz, Yucatan and parts of Oaxaca, where the climate and landscapes were more familiar to them than the high interior plateaux of central Mexico.

Mexican historians have largely ignored the in-migration of blacks and their gradual intermarriage and assimilation into Mexican society. For a variety of reasons, they chose to focus instead on either the indigenous peoples, or the mestizos who form the majority of Mexicans today. The pendulum is finally beginning to swing back, as researchers like Charles Henry Rowell, Ben Vinson III and Bobby Vaughn re-evaluate the original sources, and examine the life and culture of the communities where many blacks settled.

Most work about the influence of blacks on modern-day Mexico has focused on the Veracruz area, in particular on the settlements of Coyolillo, Alvarado, Mandinga and Tlacotalpan. 5 On the opposite coast, Bobby Vaughn has spent more than a decade studying the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero. [6]

Analysts of Mexican population history emphasize the poor reliability of early estimates and censuses, as well as the complex mixing of races which occurred with time. While the precise figures and dates may vary, most demographers appear to agree with Bobby Vaughn that the black population, which rose rapidly to around 20,000 shortly after the conquest, continued to exceed the Spanish population in New Spain until around 1810.

It is estimated that more than 110,000 black slaves (perhaps even as many as 200,000) were brought to New Spain during colonial times. Happily, their legacy is still with us, and lives on in the language, customs and culture of all these areas.

Sources / Further Reading

1 Matthew Restall. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. (Oxford University Press) 2003

2 Peter J. Bakewell. Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546-1700, cited in Afroméxico.

3 Vinson III, Ben & Vaughn, Bobby. Afroméxico. (in Spanish; translation by Clara García Ayluardo) Mexico: CIDE/CFE. 2004. The main source for this column, divided into three parts. Following a joint introduction, Ben Vinson III, Professor of Latin American History at Penn State University, provides a detailed overview of studies connected to blacks in Mexico. Then Bobby Vaughn, who has a doctorate in anthropology from Stanford University, adopts an ethnographic perspective in writing about the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero; his short essay includes discussion of the Black Mexico movement. The work concludes with an extensive bibliography of sources relating to Afroméxico.

4 Vinson III, Ben & Vaughn, Bobby. Afroméxico. Mexico: CIDE/CFE. 2004

5 See, for example, the Winter 2004 and Spring 2006 issues of Callaloo (A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters). The Spring 2006 issue, vol 29, #2, pp 397-543, has a series of articles under the general heading of “Africa in Mexico”, including transcriptions of fascinating interviews with such characters as Rodolfo Figueroa Martinez, who relates the history of how several local towns, including San Lorenzo de los Negros (now Yanga) were founded by blacks, and of how a black identity gradually emerged. Other interviewees discuss how they view their color and Afromestizo identity, lamenting the fact that their history has been distorted or largely forgotten. Local food and festival celebrations are also highlighted.

6 Bobby Vaughn’s Black Mexico Home Page, Afro-Mexicans of the Costa Chica, available via MexConnect, provides links to several of his articles including Blacks in Mexico. A Brief Overview.

Original article on MexConnect

Several chapters of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico discuss population issues, including population growth, distribution and density. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!