Anti-poverty approaches and programs in Mexico in comparative perspective. What have been the results? Where do we go from here?

Dr. Joseluis Mendez

Social justice was one of the most important goals of the Mexican Revolution of 1917 and has been a central aim of all Mexican governments since then. Beginning in the late 1970s, state programs specifically aiming at the extreme poor started to be implemented in the country. Despite all these programs, one century after the end of the Mexican Revolution poverty and inequality remain as a characteristic feature of the country. It is true that Latin America, Mexico included, had an “equality moment” from around the late-1990s to the early 2010s, during which poverty and inequality decreased. However, the region still remains as the most unequal, with Mexico as one of the most unequal countries in the world. Furthermore, in recent years’ inequality in Mexico and other Latin American countries seems to have started an upward trend once again. Thus, this paper asks What have been the anti-poverty approaches and programs in Mexico and other Latin American countries? What have been the results? Where do we go from here? To answer these questions, the paper will discuss a) the nature of poverty as a public problem, b) the different approaches/policy tools used so far to face it (social capital, conditioned cash transfers, human rights and an emerging “cash-transfer/productive” perspective), c) the results of such approaches, and d) the current conditions and capacities of the state to face poverty. These topics would be discussed mainly in relation to Mexico, but also in comparative terms. The preliminary conclusion of the paper is that the best approach towards poverty would be one that, on the one hand, somehow integrates economic and social policy measures, and, on the other, adopts a “citizens´ view” involving both rights and responsibilities.