An update on the Human Development Index in Mexico

 Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on An update on the Human Development Index in Mexico
Mar 192015

The latest United National Development Program (UNDP) report about the Human Development Index (HDI) in Mexico gives scores and ranks for each state. The full report, in Spanish, entitled “Índice de Desarrollo Humano para las entidades federativas, México 2015: Avance continuo, diferencias persistentes“, is readily available online, and is based on data up to and including 2012.

The HDI is a compound index based on several aspects of three major criteria: health, education and income.

HDI improved between 2008 and 2012 in all states except Baja California Sur. The greatest percentage increases in HDI were in Puebla (where HDI rose 3.7%), Chiapas (3.6%) and Campeche (3.6%). HDI in Baja California Sur fell 0.8%, mainly due to a lower score for education.

HDI in Mexico, with comparison countries for each state

HDI in Mexico, with comparison countries for each state. Click map to enlarge.

The pattern of HDI in Mexico, by state, is shown on the map. The highest HDI values in 2012 were for the Federal District with a score of 0.830, Nuevo León (0.790) and Sonora (0.779). At the other end of the spectrum, Chiapas had the lowest HDI (0.667), below Guerrero (0.679) and Oaxaca (0.681).

As noted previously on Geo-Mexico, the north-south divide in Mexico persists. In general, northern states, together with the Yucatán Peninsula states (Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo) all have HDI values considered “medium” or higher, while southern Mexico (plus some other states, including Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Veracruz) all have “low” values.

The map includes international comparisons. For example, Oaxaca, one of most deprived states in Mexico, had a level of HDI in 2012 comparable to that of Botswana in Africa, even though that nation’s HDI is actually 38 positions below that of Mexico in the world rankings.

The report highlights the extent of disparities by calculating the number of years it will take each state, at the rates of change experienced from 2008 to 2012 to reach the HDI level of Mexico City. Interestingly, while it will apparently take Chihuahua 200 years to reach the HDI level of Mexico City, it will take Chiapas only 20 years to reach the same point.

The main conclusion that can be drawn is that the overall quality of life continues to improve in Mexico though not at equal rates throughout  the country. Disparities persist and current patterns of public spending have failed to make significant inroads into diminishing these disparities. The UN report considers it a priority to close the development gaps in Mexico, especially in the two southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Related posts:
Mar 122015

If you really want to learn more about Mexico’s economy and have a few hours to spare, then the free, open, online video course entitled Mexico’s Economy: Current Prospects and History by MRUniversity is the place to go. The lead instructor is Dr. Robin Grier of the University of Oklahoma. In a series of 51 short videos, she provides an outstanding analysis of Mexico’s economic history and current economic issues.

The course summary reads:

Is Mexico the most dynamic economy in Latin America?  After some tough times in the 1980s and 90s, Mexico has emerged as one of the economic leaders of the region.  Where does it stand among other emerging markets and what are its prospects for the future? In this four-week course, we will study the modern Mexican economy, some of the unique elements of development in a one-party, authoritarian regime, and some of the challenges the country faced in getting to this point.

No prior knowledge of economics (or of Mexico’s geography) is needed to follow the clear and concise min-lectures given by Dr. Grier, though many of her main lines of inquiry will be more than familiar to readers of Geo-Mexico.

There is lots of interesting material in these videos. For example, a short lecture under “Social Issues” entitled “Is There A Height Premium in Mexico?” looks at the evidence that taller people in Mexico earn more and have better economic opportunities than shorter Mexicans, before concluding that “each centimeter of height above the average is equivalent to 2% higher wages”. (Note: This video is a great follow-up to our April 2013 post, How tall is the average Mexican?)

The full list of videos in Mexico’s Economy: Current Prospects and History is

  • 1 An Overview of the Mexican Economy
    • Achievements
    • Challenges & prospects for reform
  • 2 Colonial Legacies: Obstacles to Growth after Independence
    • A reversal of fortune
    • Colonial Transportation Part I
    • Colonial Transportation Part II
    • Political Instability After Independence
    • The Economic Effects of the War of Independence
    • Transportation & Infrastructure in the 19th century
    • Slow Financial Development in Early Mexico
    • Law and Economic Development in Early Mexico
  • 3 Development Strategies
    • State-led development: an overview from 1917-1982
    • Commodity Driven Growth before the 1930s
    • Turning Inward: Industrial Policy after the Great Depression
    • Labor Unions and the PRI until democratization
    • What is a maquiladora?    An overview of Pemex
    • The problems of Pemex
    • Pemex’s poor performance
  • 4 Social Issues
    • Fertility and Demographic Change in Mexico
    • Is There A Height Premium in Mexico?
    • Conditional Cash Transfers
    • Migration and its Wage Effects in the US
    • Migration and Remittances
    • Economics of the Drug War
    • Finance, Law & Trust (Mexico)
    • Education Quality in Mexico
    • Education Inequality in Mexico
    • Why is Teaching Quality so Low?
  • 5 Land & Agriculture
    • Land Reform in an Authoritarian State
    • The Economic Life of the Tortilla
    • A Tomato Border Crossing
    • Watermelon Scale Economies
  • 6 The Debt Crisis of the 1980s
    • External Factors of the Debt Crisis
    • Domestic Factors of the Debt Crisis
    • Resolving the Debt Crisis
  • 7 The State Retreats: Reform in the 1980s & 1990s
    • External Factors Behind Reform
    • Privatization Part I: The state loosens its grip
    • Privatization Part 1a: Charges of Cronyism and Corruption
    • Privatization 2: Dealing with the Opposition
    • Privatization 3: Results
  • 8 The Peso Crisis
    • The Mexican Miracle? The Lead-Up to the Tequila Crisis
    • Tequila crisis
  • 9 NAFTA & the Mexican Economy
    • An Introduction to NAFTA
    • The effects of NAFTA on the Mexican economy
    • NAFTA and Mexican Agriculture
    • FDI & NAFTA
  • 10 Modern Mexico
    • Mexico & the Brics
    • Is Mexico the new China?
    • La Reconquista: Mexican direct investment in the US
    • Mexico as an open economy
    • Mexico and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis

The course is an outstanding resource for teachers and students of geography and economics, and worthy of wide use in a range of high-school A-level and IB courses as well as college and university programs.

Survey in March 2013 identifies crime as Mexico’s biggest public concern

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Survey in March 2013 identifies crime as Mexico’s biggest public concern
Oct 262013

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project (released 24 October 2013) provides results of face to face interviews with a national sample of 1,000 adult Mexicans. The report revealed opinions concerning a wide variety of issues including the country’s direction, most important concerns, law and order, drug war, national institutions and attitudes toward the USA. Mexicans are generally dissatisfied with their country. In March 2013, 69% of Mexicans said they were dissatisfied, up from 63% in 2012, but down from 79% in 2010. The survey suggests that crime is a major cause for dissatisfaction.

The biggest concern identified in the survey is crime which 81% said was a very big problem, up from 73% in 2012. Several other crime-related issues topped the very big problem list: cartel-related violence (71%), illegal drugs (70%), human rights violations by the military and police (70%) and corrupt political leaders (69%). The concern for crime causes real fear. The survey noted that 63% say they are afraid to walk alone at night within one kilometer of their home, up 7% from 2012 and 13% from 2007. Women were only slightly more concerned about their safety than men (65% versus 60%). Those in urban areas were significantly more worried about safety than those in rural areas (70% versus 43%). On the other hand, the fact that over four in ten in rural areas were worried is both surprising and startling.

Unfortunately, we do not have a complete regional breakdown of the survey respondents. We speculate that crime is perceived as a bigger problem in high crime areas such as the north. Attitudes toward bribery appear to support this view. While 32% said they had to pay a bribe to a government official in the past year; the percentages ranged from 51% in the north to 18% in the Mexico City Region.

Over two-thirds (68%) felt that government should focus on maintaining law and order rather than protecting human rights (18%). Only 11% said that both were equally important. It is interesting that respondents from all three major political parties gave almost equal high priority to law and order: Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) – 66%; National Action Party (PAN) – 69% and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – 70%.

The drug war continues to be a problem; only 37% think the government is making progress, compared to 47% in 2012. Fully 29% said the government is losing ground in the drug war and 30% think it is about the same as it has been in the past. Over half (56%) blame both Mexico and the USA for drug violence. Only 20% blame just the USA, while 17% blame just Mexico. The vast majority (85%) want the Mexican army to fight drug cartels and over half (55%) would like the US government to provide weapons and training to fight the drug war. Only 34% would like to have US troops in Mexico fighting the cartels.

Given that the drug war is not going well and the military is implicated in many human rights violations, it is surprising that 72% of survey respondents feel that the military has a good influence on Mexico. This was higher than any other institution. About 68% felt the national government has a good influence. Other institutions got lower scores: the media – 66%, President Peña Nieto – 57%, Congress – 45%, court system – 44%, and police – 42%.

Aside from crime and related issues, Mexicans identified several other major problems. About five in eight (63%) considered poor quality schools a very big problem, way up from 49% in 2012. This increase was probably related to the arrest of the teachers’ union president and focus on the dire need for education reform. Other very big problems were pollution (60%), terrorism (59%) and people leaving Mexico for jobs (53%). This last item is a bit surprising since in recent years (since the Great Recession) relatively few Mexicans have left in search of jobs.

The percentage viewing the USA favorably has changed considerably in recent years. In early 2010, before passage of Arizona’s restrictive immigration law, 66% viewed the USA favorably. After passage of the law, this dropped to 44%, compared to an unfavorable view of 48%, up from 27% before the law. Clearly passage of that law had a very big impact on Mexicans. However the favorable ratings increased to 52% in 2011, 56% in 2012 and 66% in 2013. Meanwhile the unfavorable ratings dropped to 41% in 2011, 34% in 2012 and 30% in 2013.

Only 17% said they had traveled to the USA, but 21% indicated their families received money from relatives north of the border. About 47% indicated that moving to the USA leads to a better life, while 18% say it leads to a worse life. However, 44% say having citizens living in the USA is bad for Mexico, an equal number say it is good for Mexico. Apparently, the view is that it is good for individuals to move to the USA, but such moves may not necessarily be good for Mexico as a whole. Consistent with this, 35% said they would move to the USA if they had the means and opportunity, 20% would migrate without authorization while 15% would only migrate if they had authorization.

It will be interesting to see how these opinions change when the 2014 survey is conducted.

Related posts:

Suburbia in Mexico: Alejandro Cartagena’s images of Monterrey

 Books and resources  Comments Off on Suburbia in Mexico: Alejandro Cartagena’s images of Monterrey
Mar 242012

What do Mexican suburbs look like? What is their function? As the country’s towns and cities continue to expand, new suburbs appear on their outer edge. Some are gated communities, generally aimed at high income families; these suburbs sometimes include private schools and sports clubs. Other suburbs offer smaller homes aimed at low-income families.

Photographer Alejandro Cartagena lives in the Monterrey Metropolitan Area, which includes nine different municipalities in the state of Nuevo León: Monterrey, Guadalupe, San Nicolás, San Pedro, Santa Catarina, Escobedo, Apodaca, García and Juárez.

Cartagena spent years exploring the edge of the city to document the manifestations of “suburbia mexicana” through photographs. The suburbs he depicts are mainly low-income suburbs, some still being constructed. Cartagena recognized that change was happening at a very rapid pace, and often by developers with more lust for profit than desire to improve the local community. Since 2001, more than 300,000 new homes have been built in the Monterrey Metropolitan Area. Many suburbs were badly planned, as some of Cartagena’s photos clearly reveal. Considerations of roads, parks and public transport are often ignored in the decision-making of these developers.

Copyright: Alejandro Cartagena; all rights reserved. Image from "suburbia mexicana"; reproduced by kind permission.

Copyright: Alejandro Cartagena. Image from "suburbia mexicana". Reproduced by kind permission.

“Suburbia mexicana” includes five series of images, each briefly described below. For fuller descriptions of Cartagena’s ideas, please use the links from the title of each series to visit his relevant section of his website:

Fragmented Cities explores what the homes look like, as if being photographed for a real estate brochure.

Lost Rivers looks at the “environmental problems that stem from excessive urban and suburban development such as dried up and polluted rivers and streams.”

The Other Distance attempts to “connect the wealthy with the new-middle and low class urbanization models” by looking at San Pedro Garza García, which is one of the richest municipalities in Mexico, and easily the wealthiest part of the Monterrey Metro Area. Quoting geographer David Harvey on the “inter-connectivity between urbanization and capital accumulation”, Cartagena explores the economic contrasts that have created two distinct spaces (based on wealth), one that lacks specific “social cohesion space” such as parks, not designed to take into account “infrastructure, hospitals or education centers”, and one occupied by the wealthy sectors of society where such things are considered their “right”. Cartagena recognizes that both these spaces have an interdependent symbiotic relationship.

Copyright: Alejandro Cartagena; all rights reserved. Image from "suburbia mexicana"; reproduced by kind permission.

Copyright: Alejandro Cartagena. Image from "suburbia mexicana". Reproduced by kind permission.

Urban Holes depicts abandoned spaces in downtown Monterrey, so “highly overpriced by market speculation” that “investors look to un-urbanized land to create new developments that are lacking all kinds of infrastructure”.

The People of Suburbia, the final section, is based on a return to some of the areas photographed previously, including the municipality of Juárez, where urbanization has led to the population tripling since 2002. It is a “visual study of the unending capitalist endeavor of urban growth”.

In Cartagena’s own words, the photos of “suburbia mexicana” “depict a global issue from a local perspective” and one his intentions is “to point out the struggle our contemporary world faces between the ideals of capitalism and the striving and desire for fairer and more equal cities in which to live.” As such, this splendid collection of photographs certainly deserves the widest possible audience.

If you like Alejandro Cartagena’s work, you may like to know that he has published a book of “suburbia mexicana”, available via his website.

For more details about the Monterrey Metropolitan Area, see this 2008 paper by Dr. Peter Ward:

Oct 222011

Mexico’s pioneering “telesecundaria” or “television secondary school” system began back in 1968. It now provides junior high school classes in remote areas, serving about one million students in grades 7 to 9, 17% of the total nationwide enrollment in these grades. Many of the telesecundaria lessons are now available on the Internet, and before long, about 4,500 classes will also be available on a DVD collection.

The geographical network of telesecundarias is truly amazing. In the early 1980s, I came across one high in the mountains in a distant corner of the state of Hidalgo, in a remote Huastec village, beyond even Coca Cola’s delivery routes. A visitor was such a surprise that the entire village turned out to inspect me!

Telesecundaria in Ixcatepec, Hidalgo

Telesecundaria in Ixcatepec, Hidalgo (1983) Photo: Tony Burton

It was that experience that made me realize that Mexicans take education very very seriously. The telesecundaria was perched on the hillside overlooking the village. I later discovered this was a fairly typical example, with three classrooms, rustic restrooms in an outhouse, and a small playground. Most telesecundarias also have a science laboratory and a small library.

The students in a telesecundaria do have a teacher, but this teacher teaches every subject, whereas in a regular junior high, each student will have up to twelve different subject specialists. Every telesecundaria classroom has a television set to receive lessons broadcast by the Education Ministry (SEP) in Mexico City.

Professional Programs

In the early days, lessons were very traditional, and the TV programs were little more than continuous shots of a “talking teacher”. Interestingly, almost all those early lessons were broadcast live. Nowadays, the entire process is much slicker and far more professional. The TV programs are 15 minutes long and feature all kinds of material, including animated graphics and video footage. Watching them, you are unlikely to see the “talking teacher” even for an instant! It takes about 20 days to produce each 15-minute module and costs up to 50,000 dollars. Most programs have a useful life of between five and ten years, depending on the timing of significant changes in subject content and teaching methods.

After students have seen the TV broadcast, the classroom teacher then uses the remaining 45 minutes of each hour to explain the lesson in more detail and to monitor students as they complete related tasks from their special telesecundaria textbooks.

Nationwide satellite transmission of programs began in 1994 (EDUSAT), enabling the coverage to spread far beyond those areas previously served by conventional TV stations. Programs are broadcast daily.

On-line samples

With the advent of the Internet, the telesecundarias are now being revamped as one part of SEP’s “On-line educational TV” (“Televisión educativa en línea“) project. That page has links to currently playing segments of material for various levels, including telesecundaria, and for teachers. (This is also a valuable resource for non-native speakers working to improve their Spanish and/or their knowledge of Mexico.)

Telesecundarias have proved to be an extraordinarily effective way of improving access to, and standards of, junior high education across Mexico. While the “costs of delivery” are estimated to be 16% higher in telesecundarias, on a per student basis, than in regular junior high schools, they are significantly cheaper on a per school basis. This means that some of the nation’s 13,000 or so telesecundarias can function cost-effectively even with only 10 or 12 students in each grade level.

The success of telesecundarias

Are telesecundarias successful? It certainly seems so. An estimated 79.4% of telesecundaria students complete grade 9, compared with an equivalent figure of 78.8% for regular junior highs. In addition, one study has shown that telesecundaria students may start Grade 7 significantly behind other students but generally catch up completely in math and reduce the deficit in language.

The program has been adopted by most Central American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama—and pilot projects are underway in the USA in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida.

So next time you’re traveling in the wilds of Mexico or Central America, play “I spy” and see how many telesecundarias you can find. Bonus marks should be awarded for any that are outside the normal delivery range of Coca-Cola or Sabritas!

Mexico’s changing society: the phenomenon of “los ninis”

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Mexico’s changing society: the phenomenon of “los ninis”
Aug 022011

Los ninis are young people (aged 15-29) that “ni trabaja, ni estudia” (neither work nor study). They have become the focus of much press attention in the past couple of years, often accompanied by the phrase “Mexico’s lost generation”.

This El Universal article cites Education Ministry (SEP) figures that there are more than 7 million ninis in Mexico, 20.9% of the total number in that age group in the country. Apparently, at present, only five states have any specific programs targeting ninis and trying to persuade some of them either to enter the workforce or resume their education. These five states are Chihuahua, Baja California, Tlaxcala, Guerrero and Hidalgo.

The two states with the highest proportion of ninis (over 25% of the age group) are Chiapas and Michoacán, neither of which has any specific program to help them. The states with the smallest proportion of ninis (about 15% of the age-group) are Colima, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.

It is widely held that, in the absence of help, many ninis will have few options other than to turn to antisocial and criminal behavior, connected to drug trafficking, drug gangs, petty crime and the sex trade.

The state programs that are trying to work with ninis are adopting a variety of strategies, from seeking funding to recruit some ninis into local police forces or offering three-years paid service in the military to providing a direct monetary incentive to continue their education or financial incentives to firms that employ ninis. For example, the state of Chihuahua has funded 2,000 jobs, at a salary of 112 pesos (slightly less than 10 dollars) a day, for such socially-responsible tasks as painting homes in marginal parts of Ciudad Juárez or cleaning parks and public spaces  in Chihuahua city.

It is far too early to say whether these strategies will ultimately be successful. Finding an appropriate and productive role for Mexico’s millions of ninis is likely to remain one of society’s major challenges for decades to come.

Update (17 September 2011):

Mexico’s Secretariats of Education (SE) and of Labor and Social Welfare have issued a joint rebuttal of the previously published figure of 7 million ninis, which apparently originated in an OECD report, not from SE data as originally reported.

The rebuttal claims that 78% of these ninis are young married women, with children, who dedicate themselves to home-making. Up to 1 million young people are in this situation in the State of Mexico alone, the Secretariats claim. They emphasize that the figures reveal a gender inequality in access to educational and economic opportunities, linked to cultural patterns where many young women still see marriage and motherhood as their preferred or only option.

Read more:

Oct 082010

This year marks the centenary of the start of the Mexican Revolution. One of the fundamental causes of the Mexico Revolution in 1910, though by no means the only one, was the demand by landless campesinos (peasant farmers) for access to the means to control their own supplies of food. Revolutionary leaders called for the expropriation of the large estates or haciendas, which had been the principal means of agricultural production since colonial times, and the redistribution of land among the rural poor. A law governing this radical change in the land tenure system came into force in 1917 and the process has continued, albeit sporadically, into modern times.

About half of all cultivated land in Mexico was converted from large estates into ejidos, a form of collective farming. In most ejidos, each individual ejidatario has the rights to use between 4 and 20 hectares (10-50 acres) of land, depending on soil quality and whether or not it is irrigated. In addition, members of the ejido share collective rights over the use of local pasture and woodland. The system is similar to that in place in Aztec times. The maximum area of land that hacienda owners were allowed to keep varied with its potential use, from 100 hectares in the case of irrigated arable land to 300 hectares for land without irrigation.

By 1970 land redistribution had been more or less completed. Even so, most farming land still remained in the hands of a very small minority of farmers. Only 1% of farms were larger than 5000 hectares (12,355 acres) but between them they shared 47% of all farm land. Meanwhile, 66% of farms were smaller than 10 hectares (25 acres) yet they shared only 2% of all farm land. The ejido system did not produce the anticipated increase in food production or food security. Hacienda owners opted to keep their most productive land, meaning that many ejidos had to work land that was marginal at best. Many ejidatarios saw no need to pursue profits provided their families were well fed.

Entrance to Ejido Modelo Emiliano Zapata, Jalisco. Photo: Tony Burton

Many individual plots were too small for mechanization, and nutrients were rapidly depleted through constant use. Collective ownership of the land meant that individuals could offer no collateral for improvement loans. Many campesinos abandoned their ejidos and sought their futures elsewhere, migrating either to the big cities, for their range of manufacturing and service jobs, or to the USA. A sizable proportion of ejido land is no longer economically productive, but only in the 1990s was any mechanism put in place for ejido lands to be sold and revert back to private status.

The photo shows the entrance to the “model ejido” of Emiliano Zapata, near Tizapán el Alto, Jalisco, on the southern shore of Lake Chapala. (nb. Despite the claims of Google Earth that this ejido is in the state of Michoacán, it is definitely in Jalisco, though relatively close to the state border.) The ejido has a population of about 2500. The Google Earth image clearly shows a dispersed rural settlement pattern, quite unlike the more usual nucleated villages of rural areas in most of Mexico. Each individual ejitario has a small plot of land around his/her house, and also has a share in the communal land beyond the perimeter of the settlement.

Google Earth image of part of Ejido Modelo Emiliano Zapata, Jalisco

This is an excerpt from chapter 15 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy today, and learn more about Mexico’s fascinating geography. Additional knowledge will greatly enhance the pleasures you derive during your next trip to Mexico.

Narco-related killings in Mexico, 2006-2010

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Narco-related killings in Mexico, 2006-2010
Jul 162010

The alarming situation in Mexico with regard to drug-related violence has led the Wall Street Journal to prepare an interesting interactive graphic.

The graphic shows narco-related killings from 2006 to 2010. The slider allows you to see the pattern for each year. Hovering over the proportional circles used to represent the deaths in each state brings up the exact number.

While drug-related violence is not new, it is clearly intensifying and now affecting areas of the country where it was traditionally very rare.

Chapter 20 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico includes a brief section about the geography of drug trafficking. It focuses mainly on the spatial changes in supply systems. Buy your copy today, so you have this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography available whenever you need it.

Jun 172010

The nationwide figure for 2004 was 26 / 100,000 inhabitants. By way of comparison, the rates in the USA, Canada, and the UK were about 6, 2 and 2 respectively. The latest figures show that South Africa has a rate of 39 and Colombia 38.

The ten states with the worst murder rate in Mexico are:

RankStateIncidence of murders (/100,000 inhabitants)
3Baja California30.4
9Quintana Roo22.1

Mexico’s crime figures are analyzed in chapter 28 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico

Western Mexico, Mexico’s Catholic heartland

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Western Mexico, Mexico’s Catholic heartland
May 202010

As mentioned in an earlier post, Mexico is a predominately Catholic country. In 1980, 96% of Mexicans said they were Catholics; this dropped to 88% in 2000 and is estimated at about 80% in 2010. However, Catholicism seems to be maintaining its strength in Western Mexico.

Tzintzuntzan monastery and church. Artist: Mark Eager. All rights reserved.

In 2000, 96% of those in Guanajuato and Aguascalientes professed to be Catholic, followed closely by Jalisco, Querétaro, Zacatecas and Michoacán with 95%. Colima (93%) and Nayarit (92%) were not far behind.

The 1917 Constitution which followed the Mexican Revolution placed severe restrictions on the Catholic Church. It forbade churches from participating in primary and secondary education, it denied legal standing to religious marriages, and denied the right of church personnel to criticize the government or wear religious attire in public. These laws began to be rigorously enforced in 1926, stimulating the Cristero Rebellion by 50,000 armed devout Catholics in Western Mexico. This three year war cost 80,000 lives and reduced the number of priests in Mexico from 4,500 to only 334. Many Catholic leaders and followers immigrated to the USA.

Gradually, the severe restrictions were virtually all rescinded. In 1992 the government re-established diplomatic relations with the Vatican after over a century of estrangement. The last two Presidents of Mexico have come from the pro-Catholic PAN political party.

The geography of Mexico’s religions is discussed in chapter 11 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.

Mexico’s richest individuals in 2010

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Mexico’s richest individuals in 2010
Mar 122010

The Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest individuals in 2010 consists of 1011 individuals, each with a wealth of one billion dollars or more. Nine Mexicans (all men this year) made the list. The nine richest Mexicans are:

World rank / Name / Estimated wealth according to Forbes / Main business interests

#1 Carlos Slim Helú, 53.5 billion dollars, making him the richest man in the world. Fixed line telephone provider Telmex, cell phone provider América Móvil, Grupo Carso, Inbursa

#63 Ricardo Salinas Pliego, 10.1 billion dollars. Television company Televisón Azteca, domestic appliance store Elektra, bank Banco Azteca,
and cell phone company Iusacell

#72 Germán Larrea, 9.7 billion dollars. Grupo México – mining for copper and other minerals

#82 Alberto Bailleres, 8.3 billion dollars. Mining giant Peñoles, department store El Palacio de Hierro and Grupo Profuturo

#212 Jerónimo Arango, 4 billion dollars. Founder of Aurrerá supermarket chain and Grupo Cifra which controlled VIPS and El Portón restaurant chains, Suburbia department stores and tourist developments in Baja California Peninsula and Acapulco

#655 Emilio Azcárraga, 1.5 billion dollars. Television and media conglomerate Televisa,and Nextel cell phones

#828 Roberto Hernández, 1.2 billion dollars. Banker, one of main shareholders of Citigroup, and tourist developments in the Yucatán Peninsula

#937 (equal) Alfredo Harp Helú, 1 billion dollars. Shareholder in Citibank, telecommunications firm Avantel

#937 (equal) Joaquín Guzmán Loera (aka “El Chapo”), 1 billion dollars. Mexico’s most wanted man, head of the Sinaloa drugs cartel, the main supplier of cocaine to the US market

The combined total wealth of these 9 individuals is a staggering 90.3 billion dollars, equivalent to almost 6% of Mexico’s GDP.

The average earnings of Mexican workers registered in IMSS (Mexico’s Social Security Institute) is about 220 pesos a day or $6,300 (dollars) a year. The combined wealth of Mexico’s nine richest individuals is therefore equivalent to the total annual salaries of 14.3 million Mexicans earning this average salary!

Clearly, there are a handful of extremely wealthy individuals living in Mexico, alongside millions of Mexicans who are living at or below the poverty line. These income disparities have existed for a very long time, and are examined in detail in chapter 14 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. That chapter also analyzes the spatial patterns of wealth in Mexico, and discusses whether the gap between rich and poor has widened or narrowed in recent years.

Chapter 29 discusses Gender inequities in Mexico and  Oportunidades, a poverty reduction program (both links are to excerpts from that chapter).

Jan 032010

There are more females than males in Mexico. In fact, there are 94.8 men for every 100 women in the country.

The map below shows gender inequality, using a composite gender inequality index based on the state rankings for three variables: difference in literacy rates between male and females, differences in rates of economic participation and the percentage of municipal leaders who are female. (Data sources are listed below)
map of gender inequality in Mexico
The overall pattern of gender disparity is quite similar to the pattern for female quality of life, but there are some anomalies. Southern states are those where both the quality of life for females and the gender disparities are greatest. However, while females living in the three states comprising the Yucatán peninsula have a comparatively low quality of life, the gender disparities in those states are relatively low. On the other hand, while the quality of life in and around Mexico City is quite high for females, the level of disparities in central Mexico remains considerable.

Gender inequality is not an intangible aspect of life. Figures show that there are significant differences in the median wages of male and female employees in every subsection of the workforce with the exception of skilled technicians where females’ median wages are fractionally higher. For instance, the median wage for female teachers is 91.2% that for men; for professionals, 82.7%; and for industrial supervisors 66.9%… (extract from chapter 29 of Geo-Mexico)

Sources of data for composite index:

Literacy: (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) 2000 XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda. 2000. Aguascalientes, Mexico: INEGI.

Economic participation: INEGI-STPS 2001 Encuesta Nacional de Empleo, 2001. via [13 April 2009]

Female municipal presidents: INAFED 2002 Resumen nacional de la filiación política de los presidentes municipales de México.
work/resources/LocalContent/9523/1/filiacion.htm.orig [15 April 2009]

Flagship social development program – Oportunidades

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Flagship social development program – Oportunidades
Jan 022010

Mexico’s flagship social development program featured in a recent (29 Dec 2009) PBS Newshour segment.

Maybe they read an advance copy of Geo-Mexico (chapter 29)?

Oportunidades (Opportunities) is a government social assistance program to help families overcome poverty. Begun in 2002, it is an extension of Progresa, a program which started in 1997. Oportunidades provides conditional cash transfers every two months to families which meet specific geographic and economic criteria of poverty. The transfers only continue if family members meet a series of goals including children’s regular attendance at school and family visits to the nearest clinic for regular nutrition and health advice. Additional economic incentives are offered for the completion of each grade of school with special emphasis on ensuring that girls complete high school. The payment recipients are usually mothers, who make most child and family health decisions.
In 2008, Oportunidades managed a budget of $3.6 billion. This budget is managed very efficiently with only 4% going towards administrative expenses and on-going research. It helps 5 million families, about one-quarter of all families in Mexico. These families tend to live in the most marginal communities. Oportunidades operates in 93,000 different localities throughout the country, 86% of which are in rural areas. In Chiapas the program helps 61% of all families. The corresponding figures for two other poor states—Oaxaca and Guerrero—are 53% and 52% respectively.

Geo-Mexico goes on to evaluate the success of the program, before concluding that,

Oportunidades is one of the most-studied social programs on the planet. It has been very positively received by international agencies and is a model for similar conditioned payment programs in some 30 other countries. A pilot program called Opportunity NYC is being evaluated in New York City.