Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013
Setbacks and Challenges for Social Policy in Mexico
José Narro Robles, David Moctezuma Narro
and Diego de la Fuente Stevens
POVERTY AND BASIC SERVICES ( ...continuation )

The Chief Audit Office of Mexico reports that over the last four decades, the percentage of the population age 15 years or older and lacking a complete primary education, only fell by half, from 89% to 40%. This body estimates that if the current strategy for spending and literacy is maintained, the goal of eliminating the problem of incomplete basic education so that all Mexicans at least know how to read and write could be achieved within 188 years (Garduño and Méndez, 2012: 41).

The domestic inequality Mexico suffers is reflected in the nation’s ranking on the international stage. Below are some figures to illustrate this fact.

According to the Global Competitiveness Report edited by the World Economic Forum, Mexico’s economy is ranked number 11 in the world by its market size. However, in life expectancy, the country ranks 38 and in health and basic education, the nation is in spot 65. In terms of the incidence of tuberculosis, Mexico is in a respectable place 39 out of 133 countries, but the same cannot be said for malaria and infant mortality rates, where Mexico ranks 75b and 89, respectively (wef, 2009-2010).

Figure 3 presents a box and whisker chart summarizing the problem of access to basic services for the Mexican population. This figure provides a diagram of municipal distribution in accordance with the percentage of the population lacking something. The boxes account for 50% of observations, while the “whiskers” represent outlier data. Figure 3 shows the distribution of municipalities by incidence of some lack in the population, displaying major inequality among municipalities.

Figure 3. Access to Basic Services in the Municipalities, 2010
Source: Prepared using Coneval data, “2010 Measures of Poverty by Municipality.”

Briefly, the above figure provides the following conclusions:

  • In half of municipalities, the percentage of the population lacking education ranges between 30% and 60%. It is notable that in over 75% of municipalities, at least 20% of the population lacks educational services. Education may present worse results than other categories, except food, but the long-term effect of a lack of education on the lives of individuals that do not receive proper and quality education must be taken into account. Education should be seen and understood as a tool to level the playing field. As such, this basic constitutional right must be considered as a key element in understanding the historical perpetuation of poverty and inequality.
  • Although the municipal distribution of health services is similar to education, the same cannot be said for inequality. In 50% of the municipalities most lacking health services, there is greater distribution than for education. In other words, access to health services is more unequal than to education. As seen in the outlier observations, there are municipalities where virtually the entire population lacks basic health services.
  • The right to social security is extremely absent among the Mexican population. The figure shows that in half of municipalities, at least 80% of the population lacks social security. This in and of itself is a major issue for overall society, but it will only worsen as the national population ages and an effective pension system has yet to be implemented.
  • Drainage, electricity and drinking water are basic services that all housing must have in order to provide a decent living. The distribution of these services covers a broad range, similar to the “normal” distribution. In large measure, the inequality of this indicator reflects differences in quality of living among the Mexican population.
  • Although in the area of food the percentage of municipal populations without access is lower, the elemental importance of food for a decent and healthy life cannot be under-valued. In three-quarters of municipalities, at least 20% of the population lacks food. However, there are also municipalities where more than 70% of the population lacks proper nutrition.
  • Lacking quality housing includes the following: an individual’s home has a dirt floor, cardboard or plastic ceiling, there is overcrowding, the same room is used for cooking and sleeping or there is no bathroom within the housing facility. This variable is equally distressing as the others. Lacking basic housing translates into a poor quality of living, which undoubtedly impacts life expectancy.

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Moritz Cruz. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: August 29th, 2018.
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