Understanding Urban Population Distribution and Service Needs

With Mexico's population concentrated in cities and rural shanty towns, the Government has been concerned about population distribution since the 1970s. In the past decade rural-urban migration increased (60 per cent of the population is now urban, up from 46 per cent). But recent deregulation and redefinition of government functions have diversified population flows and increased migration from larger to smaller cities, raising the number of cities with more than 15,000 inhabitants from 166 to 309.

The urbanization process and the increased migration towards medium-sized cities seem to be driven by service growth more than industrialization. The recent increase in export-oriented production, however, will benefit not just central cities but also smaller surrounding cities. These effects will be strongest along the frontier with the United States, where there are infrastructure, public services, communications, transport, and a labour environment favourable to production.

Much of this analysis is based on two UNFPA-funded studies. The first examined migration to 16 Mexican cities and included a U.S. Government survey of undocumented workers on the frontier. The second studied the potential for development in shanty towns.

An additional series of studies in collaboration with local authorities and the private sector is looking at ways to increase general employment, raise the quality of life and offer alternatives to migration. Another project will improve baseline data in micro-regions to promote sustainable development to stem migration. A third project will study the evolution of Mexican cities in this century and provide basic information about migration.