Where is extreme poverty in Mexico?

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In my previous column I referred to how unacceptable it is that there are millions of Mexicans in a situation of extreme poverty. On this occasion I will talk about the geographical location of the people in that condition. Knowing where the poorest Mexicans live is crucial to be able to design adequate public policies to try to eradicate, or at least significantly reduce, extreme poverty in the country.

It is often thought that it is obvious where the extreme poor are in Mexico. The most common version associates extreme poverty with rural areas, with the indigenous population and with the south of the country. This is partially true since, indeed, the rates of extreme poverty are higher in these regions or population groups. For example, the rate of multidimensional extreme poverty in rural areas in 2022 was 14.9 percent, while in urban areas it was only 4.5 percent. Likewise, the rate of extreme poverty by income in rural areas was 19.5 percent, while its equivalent in urban areas was only 9.6 percent. However, in terms of the absolute number of extreme poor people, the distribution is slightly different. In relation to multidimensional extreme poverty, for example, there are 4.7 million poor people in rural areas and 4.4 million in urban areas, but in terms of extreme poverty by income, in 2022 there were 6.2 million extreme poor in rural areas and 9.6 million extreme poor in urban areas.

These figures show that, in relative terms, it is true that extreme poverty is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas, but in absolute terms there are 55 percent more extreme poor by income in urban areas than in rural areas. Something similar happens with the indigenous population and with the south of the country, that is, there are higher rates of extreme poverty there, but it is not there where most of the extreme poor in the country are. The reality is that there are more extreme poor by income in urban areas, in the non-indigenous population and in the center of the country, than in rural areas, among the indigenous population and in the southern states. For example, of the 20 municipalities that had the highest absolute number of extreme poor by income in 2020, 8 belonged to the State of Mexico, 4 to the capital, 1 to Puebla (Puebla), 1 to Guanajuato (León), 2 to the border (Cd. Juárez and Tijuana), 1 to Quintana Roo (Benito Juárez), 1 to Guerrero (Acapulco) and 2 to Chiapas (Ocosingo and Tuxtla Gtz.).

The above implies that there are two large types of extreme poor in the country: on the one hand, those who live in rural communities, in predominantly indigenous areas, in places with low population density, in the south-southeast of the country and in geographically difficult areas access and, on the other hand, those who reside in urban areas, of high density, in peripheral areas of the large border or central cities. Therefore, any public policy that aims to reduce extreme poverty in the country must be very aware of these characteristics of the population in a situation of extreme poverty. Otherwise, any attempt will be doomed to failure.

By Gerardo Esquivel

Source: Milenio