The Mexican population has been growing rapidly and is now more than 103 million.
Mexico City is the most populated city in the developing world, with more than a fifth of the country's total population now living there. All of the major cities are ringed by huge shanty towns and pollution, notably air pollution is a problem. Throughout the country, natural fresh water is scarce and often polluted.
Mexico is a large oil producer. Nearly one-third of government revenue comes from this sector. The economy has improved and employment opportunities have increased since Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) but there is still a shortage of jobs and millions subsist on part time work. Many Mexicans are poor. In particular, rural areas suffer neglect. There are few social services and utilities are poor.
The population was decimated at the time of the Spanish conquest, beginning in the early 1500s. The Spanish colonizers treated the native population brutally and the European diseases which they brought to the country were fatal to indigenous people. Demographers estimate that the population dropped from 20 million to 1 million between 1500 and 1600.
In 1976, the government began to take an aggressive approach to family planning. Twenty years later, as a result of a national program which had financial backing from the United Nations, Mexican women were having, on average, 2.7 children, down from 6.7, when the campaign began. Despite this success, Mexico's population is still increasing by more than 2 million a year. This is because so many women are of childbearing age. Mexico's population is relatively young, with 36% of the population 14 years old or younger.
There is a shortage of work in Mexico and many people emigrate. Almost all of them move to the United States. Many poor Mexicans try to cross the border with the US illegally, in search of a job, and more than a million are arrested every year. This exodus has led to some towns and villages in Mexico being virtually emptied of able-bodied men. But there is some economic benefit to Mexico since many of these migrants send back a share of their income to their families remaining in the country.
Native Indian deprivation
Indians are still the most marginalized sector of Mexican society. In the 1990 census, more than 40% of the Indian population aged 15 years and older was illiterate, roughly three times the national rate. Thirty percent of Indian children between 6 and 14 years did not attend school. Indians also had significantly higher morbidity and mortality rates, associated with infectious and parasitic illness, higher levels of nutritional deficiencies and less access to such basic services as indoor plumbing, piped water and electricity.
There are a large number of languages spoken in Mexico. Specialists have identified twelve distinct Mexican linguistic families, more than forty subgroups, and more than ninety individual languages. This makes it more difficult to make sure than everyone has the opportunity to take part in any census. Everyone must be able to understand what is being asked. The state of Oaxaca has the nation's most diverse linguistic pattern. It has twelve different Indian languages.