Essay on Mexico Population Policy in 1974

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This is paper discusses the family planning population policy implemented in Mexico in 1974, and also covered its effect on Mexico's fertility and population age structure by comparing the demographic data before and after this policy. To better understand this policy, there is also some demographic background of Mexico in the last century. This population policy is for how to lower Mexico's fertility rate to make its economy grow better. And it made a good performance on change Mexico's fertility and demographic structure.

keywords: population policy, fertility, Mexico.

I. Introduction

This 1974 population policy in Mexico is about how to slow Mexico's natural growth rate and change its demographic structure due to its overpopulation at that time.

Before the 1974’s policy, Mexico also had pursued some different population policies. The fertility rate in the 1950s to 1970s are very high, as shown in table 1, it basically stayed at 6.7%.In the early 1930s, Mexico formulated its first population policy to promote population growth by encouraging marriage and childbirth, childbirth health, immigration, and repatriation. The population policy was revised in 1947 to promote more migration. At that time, Mexico's population grew by about half a million people each year. Between 1950 and 1970, Mexico's population grew at a rate of 3.2% per year, almost double of the previous rate, and one of the highest growth rates in the world. The simultaneous increase in population and per capita income runs counter to the belief that economic development has led to a decline in fertility. This unusual demographic situation is called the 'Mexico Paradox'. (Chen, 1990)

Table 1

Fertility from the 1950s to 1970s

This table shows the fertility of Mexico in 1955, 1960, 1965, and 1970. And data is from the statistics website Worldometers.

Almost at the same time, the mortality rate of Mexico began to decline, because of its developing medical and health situation. As the economy continues to grow, urbanization is accelerating, mortality is falling, and fertility is increasing. Mexico became one of the fastest population-growing countries in the world.

Because of Mexico’s year-after-year rapidly increasing population growth, and the gradual increase in the total population, the Mexican government is beginning to worry about their national economy. The growing population will reduce the living standards of residents and cause resource constraints within the country.

In the early 1970s, the government found that the rate of population growth was can’t matched the economic development, which is likely to reduce the living standards of residents. Then some officials believe that promoting family planning is a good solution. It has not only social and health benefits but also make economic growth.

So, In 1974, the government began to formulate this population policy, and President Echevarria announced a national family planning policy. The goal of the policy is to reduce population growth in order to improve living standards. Change the age structure of the population and its distribution across the country. Also emphasize the use of education, information and communication to build a better population culture. And promote women's participation in the development process.

This 1974 family planning policy does have some effect on Mexico's population and other demographic field. It has sharply reduced the fertility rate and changed their population distribution and age structure. I will discuss the evidence of effects in the rest of the paper by researching some journal articles written by others, and some demographic data from the Statistics website.

II. Population Background

Before tell the effect of this policy, I would like to discuss some population problems Mexico faced at the early 1970s.

After the government began to formulate a population policy aim to reduce fertility, President announced that a national family planning policy will be implemented in Mexico. The goal of the policy is to reduce population growth in order to improve living standards. More to change the age structure of the population and its distribution across the country. Also emphasize the use of education, information and communication to build a better population culture. And promote women's participation in the development process. (Cabrera, 1994)

Until 1972, officials in Mexico seemed to think that the high annual population growth rate was not a real problem, as long as the rate of economic development remained ahead of the population growth rate. The population in 1972 increased to 54 million. The General Law of 1947 was actually promoting population growth. It was not until the 1960s that the concept of elites changed, and privately funded family planning programs became more active. President Echevarria announced the National Family Planning Plan and the National Population Commission in 1974. (Nagel, 1978)

The results of the 1970 census confirmed that Mexico's population has grown to more than 50 million. If this growth rate continues, there will be about 135 million people in Mexico by 2000. (Cabrera, 1994)

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We can see the population pyramid of Mexico in the 1960s in figure 1, it has a wide base and narrow top which suggests high fertility and a rapidly growing population. And at the same time period, the population pyramid of US is shown in figure 2, which is narrow in the middle and wide at both top and bottom. Showing that the US population at that time, although was going through the baby boom, it has a lot of older population. Compare with the US population pyramid in the 1960s, we can find that Mexico’s population structure was facing a serious age problem, where there are too many young people and very less old people.

The proportion of youth is too large, which will cause huge population growth inertia. And it is not conducive to the healthy development of the population. Will increase the country's economic pressure and lower the education level of the population, and cause employment difficulties, housing shortages, slow or even decline in living standards, and environmental problems. Basically are not conducive to improving the quality of the population.

III. Policy Implementation

Therefore, in 1974, the Mexican government began to promote a family planning policy.

The government has created institutions to help implement the policy. Between 1976 and 1982, they launched several health programs for rural residents. During this period, more than 3,000 rural health clinics and 73 regional hospitals were established. (potter, 1999.)

Mexico's rural population at the time faced more challenges than urban areas. It has a much higher fertility rate and a much lower contraceptive prevalence rate compared to the urban. Most external observers, especially those involved in implementing population policies, consider promoting contraception and reducing fertility in rural areas a major challenge. The commissioned public health agency has launched a major plan to extend its coverage to rural areas.

The Rural Health Program of the Department of Health which called SSA first recruited community health workers in more than 11,000 communities. In late 1976 to 1982, due to unforeseen changes in the Mexican government, the plan was replaced by a more comprehensive rural health plan implemented by the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). (Potter, 1999.)

In rural programs, both the SSA and IMSS emphasize family planning. Improved the education of women, by teaching women the benefits of having a small family and changing their mind of religious favor which prefer to have more children in a family. Also promoting the use of contraceptives. The contraceptive methods encouraged are intrauterine devices and female sterilization. These services are provided free of charge to most women and are strongly encouraged shortly after birth. Hospitals and clinics are assigned monthly targets to implement the methods described above. To exacerbate the fear of using this method in 90% to 93% of patients surveyed, doctors and nurses point out members of other communities that seem to have successfully used these methods.

Since then, the Mexican government has launched ambitious mass communication and sex education programs to attract new attitudes. The plan came into effect in mid-1979, with population growth reaching 2.9%, close to the 2.5% target set by new President Lopez Portillo in 1982.

IV. Theoretical Model or Theoretical Framework

Since this family planning policy is reducing fertility by improving education and health care. A journal article discussing the relationship between education and fertility, written by Karin Monstad, Carol Propper and Kjell G. Salvanes, provides strong evidence that the increase in education on women have a tendency to reduce fertility and postpone women’s age when they give the first birth. Their theory is that the decline in fertility is usually attributed to the increase in women's education.

Because fertility and education levels change over time, it is difficult to establish a causal relationship. In this article, the author studies the link between fertility and education using education reform as a tool to control selection. Their results indicate that increased education leads to the postponement of first births to teenage mother and affect some of the women who have their first birth in their 20s to change the first birth age to the age of 35 to 40. (Monstad, Propper, and Kjell, 2008.)

This gives theoretical evidence of how this family planning policy work to reduce the fertility rate. It reduces fertility by improving women's education and their health knowledge.

V. Impact of the Policy

In 1975, the average fertility rate in Mexico was 6.0%. And this number changed to 4.5% in 1980. (Potter, 1999.) Despite there is still a high fertility rate in rural areas, the total fertility rate in a rural area is about 7.4 births per woman, it is a decline from the peak compared with the earlier ten years. An empirical study found that when the government implemented a family planning policy, fertility rates began to decline, with the encouragement of the Mexican government, an increase in living standards in Mexico has led to a decline in population growth compared to strict birth control methods. ( Chen, Hicks, Johnson, and Rodreguez, 1990.)

According to the National Survey, by the end of 1976, the number of accounted the use of contraceptive methods for women at childbearing age in Mexico is 41.50%. New information and contraceptive methods are being explored to cover Mexico's dispersed rural population and reduce the average family size from an average of 6.5 children per woman to 2-3 children between 1973 to 1975. Family planning has changed Mexico from a natural growing fertility environment in which the number of children is determined by social and economic factors, to a population environment that couples limit their number of children by using pre-modern or modern contraceptive methods.

In order to see the demographic changes in Mexico more clearly, there is a population pyramid of 1990’s Mexico in figure 3, we can see that Mexico’s population pyramid has changed compared wit 1960 one. Though its new born number still very large, it has a better age structure. And the large new birth is because of the big population base. This population pyramid suggests a population with low fertility rates and a tendency of a lower fertility rate.

By estimated, if there were no population policies, the annual population would increase by 2.8 million. Medical expenses will increase 60 percent. Overall, there are few jobs opportunities and residents do not have enough space to live. Poverty caused by too many births will hang over the country. However, by the late 1970s, fertility in Mexico had fallen rapidly. In 1995, the fertility rate in rural Mexico had fallen below 4, and the proportion of married women using contraceptives was close to half of the total.

VI. Conclusion

In the early 1970s, Mexico was plunged into a problem that excessive population growth which will negatively affect the country's economic development. As they already had experience in implementing population policies, they established a family planning population policy in 1974 to promote its population health. This policy aims to reduce Mexico's population growth and improve its structure and quality. And its specific measures are to improve the education on women, teach them contraceptive methods, and improve the local health insurance and medical care institution. These measures all implemented successfully.

Because Mexico's population is slowing down and increasing at a steady rate, I think their population policy has worked very well. Since the policy is working, the population is classified at a satisfactory growth rate. The reason why I think it is important to know this family planning policy is that I think Mexico is an example of how an overpopulated country can slow down its growth rate and also sustain a stable economy. It provides a very good natural experiment to research.


  1. Chen, Jain-Shing A., Hicks, W. Whitney, Johnson, S.R., and Rodriguezi, Raymundo. 1990. “Economic Development, Contraception and Fertility Decline in Mexico.” Journal of Development Studies, pp. 408-24.
  2. Cabrera, Gustavo. 1994. “Demographic Dynamics and Development: The Role of Population Policy in Mexico.” Population and Development Review, Vol. 20, pp. 105-120.
  3. Monstad, Karin. Propper, Carol. and Salvanes, Kjell G. 2008. “Education and Fertility: Evidence from a Natural Experiment.” The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Vol. 110, No. 4, Economics of Education and Human-Capital Accumulation, pp. 827-852
  4. Nagel, NS. 1978. “Mexico's population policy turnaround.” Popul Bull.
  5. Potter, Joseph E. 1999. “The Persistence of Outmoded Contraceptive Regimes: The Cases of Mexico and Brazil.” Population and Development Review, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 703-739
  6. Worldometers, Mexico demographic data.
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