Rodrigo Osorio
General Director
Urban Labs Holding
Expert Contributor

Social Mobility in Mexico

By Rodrigo Osorio | Tue, 11/23/2021 - 12:52

Social mobility is defined as “the changes experienced by members of a society regarding their position within socioeconomic distribution.” This concept allows us to evaluate the ability of people to change their socioeconomic position compared to that of their parents, called relative mobility, as well as measure the change in the standard of living existing between different generations of an entire country or region, which is called absolute mobility.

Mexico is a highly inegalitarian country, where people’s backgrounds are a determining factor in their socioeconomic achievement. Extensive studies on intergenerational social mobility in urbanized Mexico have found that the decrease in opportunities or probabilities of achievement are not directly related to economic growth, but rather to a specific accumulation model. Likewise, studies found that the occupation of the economic head of the family influences the occupational destiny of the generations to follow.

The Report on Social Mobility in Mexico from the Espinosa Yglesias Study Center (CEEY), written in 2019, yields data that provides a parameter regarding the limited capacity Mexican families have to overcome the conditions of inequality that mark them from birth.  The analysis in this report focuses on relative social mobility from one generation to the next. The data is worrying. In Mexico, 49 out of 100 people born in households from the lowest group on the social ladder do not leave this group in their lifetime. Of the 51 remaining persons who do manage to climb, 25 still fail to cross the poverty line. The study also reveals that 57 percent of people born in the most privileged homes in Mexico retain their position for the rest of their lives. This lack of social mobility is evident at the regional level. The most underprivileged born in the south of Mexico have a 67 percent probability of remaining in their precarious income decile. In contrast, this percentage drops to 25 in the north and northwest of Mexico.

On the other side, sociological factors such as gender segregation in the labor market and the characteristics of local and regional labor markets also affect mobility. Gender and skin tone influence the figure: 75 out of 100 women born in the most underprivileged groups do not overcome poverty; the number drops to 71 for men. Conversely, citizens with a darker skin tone experience less upward mobility and a greater downward mobility compared to those with a lighter skin tone.

Analyzing and evaluating social mobility is fundamental for the design and implementation of public programs that reduce inequality of opportunity and offer disadvantaged Mexicans a high possibility to transcend their social heritage. For example, policies aimed at generating a greater equity in competition for jobs are of great value. Consumer subsidies for lower classes and social services toward urbanized communities, health and education promote mobility.

The experience of countries with a greater amount of social fluidity, such as the Scandinavian states, propose constructing a strong welfare system, accompanied by policies that aim to reduce the rigidity of social stratification. It is a priority to reduce inequality in income distribution and promote the redistribution of work and education opportunities among society’s members. This means backing education and linking this educational system to the labor market. It also entails promoting more job opportunities featuring protected labor rights, which will ensure that work func

Photo by:   Rodrigo Osorio