In the early 1990s, Mexico reported substantial improvement in overall living conditions compared with the previous twenty years. The 1990 census demonstrated expanded access to basic public services such as running water and indoor plumbing. It also revealed, however, that Mexicans had not shared equally in these improvements, with southern Mexico consistently lagging behind the rest of the nation in quality-of-life indicators. In addition, rural living conditions countrywide paled in comparison to those found in urban areas.
According to the 1990 census, 79.4 percent of all Mexican households had access to running water, a notable improvement from the 61 percent and 70.3 percent rates recorded in 1970 and 1980, respectively. Significantly, however, access to running water did not necessarily mean indoor plumbing. Indeed, a household whose residents obtained water from a piped system elsewhere on the property or from a public faucet were considered to have access to running water. In addition, the census did not measure the quality or quantity of piped water. Many lower-class communities had access only to untreated running water, and even that for only a portion of each day.
Even using the broad definition of access to running water, wide variations emerged. Four states in southern Mexico--Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Tabasco--reported access levels below the 1970 national average. Access to running water was especially low in rural communities. Only 48.1 percent of all communal farming communities or ejidos (see Glossary) nationwide reported access in 1988, with levels below 30 percent for ejidos in Veracruz and Yucatán, and below 40 percent for ejidos in Chiapas, San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, and Tamaulipas (see Rural Society, this ch.).
Similar variations also were evident in a number of other social indicators. Nationally, 63.6 percent of all households had indoor plumbing in 1990, as compared with 41.4 percent and 50.7 percent in 1970 and 1980, respectively. However, indoor plumbing rates ranged from more than 90 percent in Mexico City to less than 40 percent in Oaxaca and Chiapas. National household access to electricity climbed from 58.9 percent in 1970 to 74.4 percent in 1980 and to 87.5 percent in 1990. Yet although Aguascalientes, Nuevo León, and Mexico City reported rates exceeding 95 percent in 1990, less than 70 percent of all Chiapas households had electricity. Only 68.3 percent of all ejido communities had electricity in 1988, with rates below 60 percent for ejidos in Chiapas, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, and Yucatán, and below 50 percent for ejidos in Chihuahua.
Finally, 19.5 percent of all households had dirt flooring in 1990, a notable improvement from the 41.1 percent average in 1970 and the 25.8 percent average in 1980. Again, however, jurisdictions reported enormous disparities. Although Mexico City and five northern states--Aguascalientes, Baja California, Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Nuevo León--had levels below 10 percent, more than 40 percent of all households in the southern states of Chiapas and Guerrero and more than 50 percent of all households in Oaxaca had dirt floors.
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