01.01.02. Key geographical and demographic characteristics | Mexico

01.01.02. Key geographical and demographic characteristics | Mexico

11 Jul 2022


Mexico’s territory covers 1.9 million square kilometres of continental surface, 5,127 square kilometres of island surface, and 3.1 million square kilometres of exclusive zone in the oceans, resulting in a total area exceeding five million squared kilometres. The country shares a 5,000-kilometre border in the North with the United States, and in the South, Mexico shares an 871-kilometre border with Guatemala and a 251-kilometre border with Belize. Geopolitically, Mexico is generally considered to be part of North America.

Almost all the country’s territory is on the North American Plate, with small parts of the Baja California Peninsula in the Northwest on the Pacific and Cocos Plates. Situated atop three of the large tectonic plates that constitute the Earth’s surface, Mexico is one of the most seismologically active regions on Earth. The motions of these plates cause earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Mexican Territory gave rise to numerous mountain systems, mainly the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre Occidental, Sierra Madre del Sur, and the Cordillera Neovolcánica or Eje Volcánico Transversal (Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt). In the country, much of the volcanic activity is related to the subduction zone formed by the tectonic plates of Rivera and Cocos in contact with the great North American plate and has its volcanic expression in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. These are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, also called the Circum-Pacific Belt that surrounds the Pacific and gives the area a continuous high volcanic activity.

Population density

According to the 2010 Census (INEGI, 2010b), 78% of the total population lived in urban areas and 22% in rural areas (rural populations are defined as localities with less than 2,500 inhabitants, and urban localities as those with total population of 2,500 or above). In 1950 just under 43% of the population in Mexico lived in urban areas, by 1990 it was 71% and by 2010 this figure increased to almost 78% (INEGI, 2010b).

In 2010 the population density at national level was estimated at 57.3 inhabitants per square kilometre, this increased to 61 by 2015. The capital of the country, Mexico City, stands out with the highest density at 5,967 inhabitants/km2, followed by the state of Mexico, with a density of 724 inhabitants/km2. On the other hand, the populations with the lowest number of inhabitants per square kilometre are Baja California Sur with 10 and Durango with 14 inhabitants/km2 (INEGI, 2010b, 2015c).

[1] Data presented is a summary of the following sources: INEGI. 2008. Referencias geográficas y extensión territorial de México, INEGI: Mexico; López de Llergo, R. Principales rasgos geográficos de la República Mexicana. Investigaciones Geográficas, Boletín del Instituto de Geografía, UNAM No. 50, 2003, pp. 26-41; the Mexican Geological System (https://www.sgm.gob.mx/Web/MuseoVirtual/Riesgos-geologicos/Volcanes-de-Mexico.html )


INEGI. (2010b). Principales resultados del Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010. In Principales resultados del Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010. (Vol. 1).

INEGI. (2015c). Mortalidad. Esperanza de vida al nacimiento por entidad federativa.