01.03.04. Poverty and inequality | Mexico

01.03.04. Poverty and inequality | Mexico

11 Jul 2022

Mexico has a much higher level of income inequality than other OECD countries, with its Gini coefficient (0.45) exceeding by far the OECD average (0.37), but closer to the Latin American average (Lambert & Park, 2019). According to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, the main reasons why poverty rates remain high are the country’s meagre per capita growth rates and deficiencies in the planning and targeting of social policies. It has also been noted that, while conditional cash transfer programs have been very effective at reducing inequality, other social programs have disproportionately benefited individuals at the top rather than at the bottom of the income distribution (Lambert & Park, 2019).

Regardless of continuing poverty alleviation strategies and other social programmes, income is highly concentrated, and the latest report of the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy, CONEVAL 2016, estimated that 7.6% of the Mexican population live in extreme poverty and 36% live in moderate poverty[1] (CONEVAL, 2018). Since 2009, the Mexican government has measured poverty using a multidimensional index of social deprivation (CONEVAL, 2018). The index has shown differential rates according to its subcomponents, such as access to education, social security, and access to health services, among others.

Regarding gender equality, there has been important progress since the year 2001 when President Vicente Fox created the National Institute for Women as an independent body within the federal government to coordinate compliance with national policy regarding equality and the eradication of violence against women. The institute is in charge of guaranteeing equal development and rights between men and women, through the development of public policies and other mechanisms such as media campaigns and publications. This institute also works with the legislative branch and the executive at federal and state level to follow up on the implementation and supervision of gender equality law. In addition, fundamental steps have been taken through the passing of legislation focused on eliminating discrimination and inequalities[2].

However, important challenges remain. A study in 2016 showed that, among those in paid work, women’s wages were, on average, between 17% and 47% lower than men’s. There were differences according to the state where they lived in and a wider difference by type of occupation. While the wage divide decreases as educational attainment increases, the wage divide between men and women prevails. Among those with no formal education, women’s wages are almost half of men’s, with a total difference of -50% and -33% for those with a college or university degree. In addition, among the population aged 15 years and older, 28% of women report having no own income, that is, they depend on others to subsist. Among men in this same age group, only 6% find themselves in this position, showing another facet of income inequality by gender in the country (INMUJERES, 2016).

Regarding general health inequalities, inequality in financial protection related to socioeconomic status has decreased significantly in parallel with the general decrease in the lack of financial protection. On the other hand, large inequality persists in indicators of access to health services and health indicators, both by socioeconomic status and by other social indicators (Gutierrez et al., 2014).

[1] The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy generates a Social Deprivation Index taking into account the following factors: educational lagging, access to health services, access to social security, space and quality of the household, basic services and access to food. Extreme poverty includes individuals that presents deprivation or lacks three or more of these factors, while moderate poverty includes those lacking two factors.

[2] Specifically, the General Law for Equality among Women and Men (Ley General para la Igualdad entre Mujeres y Hombres), a National Norm for Labour Equality and No Discrimination (Norma Mexicana NMX-R-025-SCFI-2015 en Igualdad Laboral y No Discriminación) generated as a collaboration between INMUJERES, the Labour and Social Prevision Secretariat (STPS), and the National Center for the Prevention of all Discrimination (CONAPRED), and a General Law for a Life Free of Violence for Women (Ley General de Acceso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia). Within the federal administration, mainstreaming of gender issues and gender equality has been the focus of many efforts in the last presidential terms.


CONEVAL. (2018). Diez años de medición de pobreza multidimensional en México: avances y desafíos en política social. https://www.coneval.org.mx/Medicion/MP/Paginas/Pobreza-2018.aspx

Gutiérrez, J. P., García-Saisó, S., Dolci, G. F., & Ávila, M. H. (2014). Effective access to health care in Mexico. BMC Health Services Research, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-14-186

INMUJERES. (2016). Brecha salarial de género en México. http://www.imf-formacion.com/blog/corporativo/igualdad-2/brecha-salarial-de-genero/

Lambert F, & Park H. (2019). Income Inequality and Government Transfers in Mexico.