The Poorest States In Mexico

By Joseph Kiprop on August 13 2019 in Economics

Although it is a state of rich natural beauty, Chiapas currently has the highest poverty rate in the country.
Although it is a state of rich natural beauty, Chiapas currently has the highest poverty rate in the country.

In 2018, the World Bank reported that Mexico's GDP per capita was the second-highest in Latin America after Brazil. However, the poverty rate remains relatively high in Mexico, as does the unequal wealth distribution. The ten poorest states in Mexico as per CONEVAL data are Chiapas, Guerrero, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Tlaxcala. 


The poverty rate in Chiapas is the highest in the country, reaching 74.7% in 2012. Chiapas is, therefore, the poorest state in the country, despite the fact that it produces over 25% of Mexico’s natural gas. More people migrate out of Chiapas than those migrating to the state, due to the limited economic opportunities present in Chiapas. The type of housing in Chiapas is a testament to the disparity in wealth among the residents. While the illiteracy rate in Chiapas has decreased over the decades, it is still higher than the national average. Agriculture is the number one economic activity in the state, and the agricultural industry the state’s biggest employer.


Guerrero has a poverty rate of 69.7%, the second-highest in the country. Agriculture is a top economic driver in the state, with fruits, cereals, and sugar cane being the top agricultural products from Guerrero. However, the poppy plant is the main agricultural export from the state. Guerrero is the top poppy flower producing state in the country, and that of Afghanistan only mirrors its production in the world. Its tourism industry defines the economic development of Guerrero. The service industry accounts for 28.2% of employment in the state, making it the top employer in Guerrero. Illiteracy levels in the state stand at 21.5% but are as high as 80.6% in some rural municipalities.


Despite Puebla being among Mexico’s most industrialized states, it has the third-highest poverty rate in the country, standing at 64.5%. Socioeconomic development in the state is focused on the urban centers, while rural municipalities are given a wide berth. Ten of these rural municipalities in Puebla are established to be among the poorest in the country. Agriculture is the number-one employer in the state, employing 37% of the state’s adult population. Livestock rearing, particularly poultry keeping, is the primary agricultural activity in the state. The state is also well-known for its art and craft, with the Talavera pottery from Puebla having global recognition.


The economic output of Oaxaca accounts for 1.5% of Mexico’s Gross National Product. However, the state is among the poorest in Mexico, with its poverty rate standing at 61.9%, the fourth-highest in the country. Development in Oaxaca is focused on the administrative capital of the state, leaving the interior municipalities without many social amenities. As a result, the rural municipalities have experienced a population decline, as thousands of people migrate to other states in search of more favorable economic conditions. 65.4% of the total GDP of the state comes from the commerce industry, the state’s largest industry. The commerce industry in Oaxaca is also the state’s top employer, employing an estimated 50% of the state’s population.


Tlaxcala is the state with the fifth-highest poverty rate in Mexico, which stands at 57.9%. Agriculture is a crucial economic pillar in the state, with cereals and cattle being the top agricultural commodities. However, agricultural production is dependent on rainfall despite the state having over 480 dams and wells. Tourism is another significant economic contributor in the state, as Tlaxcala is home to numerous notable archeological sites such as the ruins of Cacaxtla.


Michoacan has the sixth-highest poverty rate in the country, standing at 54.4%. About 20% of the state’s land area is under agriculture. However, the state’s agricultural production relies on the rains, with irrigation-based agriculture practiced in a few regions. The agricultural industry employs 34% of the state’s population. Avocadoes are the top agricultural commodity produced in Michoacan, with the state being the largest producer of the fruit, not only in Mexico but the entire world.


The primary economic driver in Zacatecas is the state’s mining industry. The state is endowed with mineral wealth. Mexico is the global leader in silver production, and 53% of the country’s silver is produced in the state. More than 21% of the gold produced in Mexico is sourced from the state. Agriculture is another important industry in Zacatecas, with the state being the largest producer of chili peppers, guavas, and beans. However, Zacatecas is among the ten poorest states in the country and has the seventh-highest poverty rate of any state which stands at 54.2%.


The eight-highest poverty rate in Mexico is that of the state of Hidalgo which stands at 52.8%. A traditional economic driver in the state was its mining industry, but it is currently on a decline. Magnesium, zinc, limestone, and lead are the principal minerals produced in Hidalgo. The state also has significant gold, petroleum, and silver deposits. Tourism is another top economic industry in the state, as Hidalgo has numerous natural and cultural tourist attractions. The tourism and commerce industries are the top employers in the country, as the two employ about 44% of the population.


The ninth highest poverty rate in the country is Veracruz’s rate standing at 52.6%. The state has an estimated 25% of the total petroleum deposits in the country and has the third largest petroleum production of any state in Mexico. An estimated 109.87 billion cubic feet of natural gas is produced in Veracruz each year. The state leads in the production of petrochemicals in the country. Water is another valuable natural resource Veracruz has in plenty, as the state accounts for 35% of the country’s water supply.

San Luis Potosi

The poverty rate in San Luis Potosi stands at 50.5%, the tenth highest of any state in Mexico, and making San Luis Potosi the tenth poorest state in the country. Manufacturing is a key economic driver in the state, with Cummins Inc. and General Motors being significant players in the industry. Agriculture does not account much regarding GDP, but is a substantial employer in the state, employing about 20% of the adult population in San Luis Potosi.

The Poorest States In Mexico

RankStatePoverty Rate (2012)
1 Chiapas74.7%
2 Guerrero69.7%
3 Puebla64.5%
4 Oaxaca61.9%
5 Tlaxcala57.9%
6 Michoacán54.4%
7 Zacatecas54.2%
8 Hidalgo52.8%
9 Veracruz52.6%
10 San Luis Potosí50.5%

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