Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Human Development in Latin America: 1994-2004
About 11% of Mexican households are indigenous. The indigenous population is predominantly rural and lives in communities with less than 15,000 inhabitants. While only 35% of the non-indigenous population lives in rural areas, over 72% of the indigenous population lives in rural communities.
Poverty among indigenous people decreased slightly between 1992 and 2002 from 90% to 89.7%, while poverty among non-indigenous people decreased from 49.1% to 46.7% during the same period. Extreme poverty among indigenous households also decreased slightly during the same period from 70.8% to 68.5%, and from 18.7% to 14.9% among non-indigenous people. The incidence of extreme poverty in 2002 was 4.5 times higher in predominantly indigenous than in non-indigenous municipalities, up from a ratio of 3.7 times in 1992. (Chapter 6: Table 4).
Income and employment
The indigenous population participates in the labor force at slightly lower rates than the non-indigenous population (68% versus 74%) and receives lower remuneration for its work. The returns to type of employment are much higher in indigenous areas: a non-agricultural worker earns 179% more than someone who is self-employed, and an agricultural worker earns 106% more than a self-employed individual. (Chapter 6: Table 12).
In 2002, an individual that lived in a municipality where 10% to 40% of the population is indigenous had an average income equivalent to 46% of the income of a person in a non-indigenous municipality. Similarly, an individual in a predominantly indigenous municipality (above 40% indigenous) had an income equivalent to only 26% of the income of a person in a non-indigenous municipality. (Chapter 6: Table 3).
About 59% of the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous workers’ earnings can be explained by endowments, but the unexplained factors such as ability, quality of education, culture and labor market discrimination account for the remaining 41% of the earnings gap.
Returns to schooling
Even with the same education level, indigenous people were shown to be much poorer than non-indigenous people. The average return for years of schooling in indigenous municipalities is 9% for each additional year, while in non-indigenous municipalities it is slightly higher at 11%. The returns for post-secondary education and labor market experience are slightly higher in indigenous than in non-indigenous municipalities.
Mean years of schooling for indigenous adults is 4.6 years compared to 7.9 years for non-indigenous adults. The illiteracy rate for indigenous people is 24.6% compared to 6.4% for non-indigenous people. Primary school dropout rates continue to be substantially higher among the indigenous population at 57% for municipalities that are at least 40% indigenous, compared to 25% for the municipalities that are less than 10% indigenous. (Chapter 6: Tables 22, 25 and 28).
There is evidence that indigenous people suffer from lower quality schooling, systematically obtaining lower reading and mathematics scores than all other types of schools, regardless of area of residence. In 2002, a sixth grader from an indigenous school had 14.5% lower reading scores and 8.2% lower mathematics scores than the average sixth grader nationwide. (Chapter 6: Tables 34 and 35).
Life expectancy at birth is four years lower in predominantly indigenous than non-indigenous municipalities (64 versus 68 years), while the infant morality rate is significantly higher (41 compared to 24 per 1,000 live births). Indigenous children present much higher degrees of malnutrition (anemia, underweight and stunting) than non-indigenous children. (Chapter 6: Table 36).
About 45% of Mexico’s population has health insurance compared to only 18% of the indigenous population. This is mainly due to the fact that indigenous workers are predominantly concentrated in the informal sector and health insurance is largely tied to formal sector work.
Access to services
About 65% of indigenous households have access to drinking water, compared to 85.8% of non-indigenous households. Only 40.3% of indigenous households have access to sewage connections and 75.2% have access to sanitation facilities, which is considerably lower than the percentage of non-indigenous households at 80% and 90.5%, respectively. (Chapter 6: Table 44).