Essay Sample on History: Race, Class and its Effects on Mexico's Development

Published: 2023-08-20
Essay Sample on History: Race, Class and its Effects on Mexico's Development
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Education Economics Social issue
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1660 words
14 min read

In her expert brief, O’Neil cites oligopolies and monopolies as some of the main problems that have impeded Mexico’s economic development. Crucial sectors of the economy, such as telecommunications, media, energy, tortillas, cement, soft drinks, electricity, and soft drinks, are dominated by the government and a few significant players. Such restrictions on the market have created restrictions that limit innovation, competitiveness, and ultimate growth, hence creating a huge wealth gap. As a result, significant class differences continue to be one of the issues that have prevented Mexico’s upward trajectory. But that is not the only issue that has prevented Mexico’s economic growth. For several decades, the discussion on racial inequality has been reserved for certain countries such as the United States. However, a new report by Zizumbo-Colunga & Martinez (2017) indicates that a darker skin tone is usually associated with decreased wealth in Mexico and less education. According to the report, race is the most critical determinant of a Mexican citizen’s education and economic status (Zizumbo-Colunga & Martinez, 2017). As a result, the class and racial differences triggered institutional conflicts, which led to a series of events that altered Mexico’s upward trajectory.

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Class differences led to institutionalized discrimination against poor people. The institutions in Mexico are designed to serve the needs and welfare of the rich. Little attention is given to people from low socio-economic backgrounds. Aguilar (2011) shows that most Mexicans identify with classism, which is the most common form of discrimination in Mexico. Flores & Telles (2012) also argue that class origins are a dominant factor in Mexico’s social stratification. Therefore, it has widely been held that class is the most dominant social cleavage (Flores & Telles, 2012). The Mexican class system is very rigid, and family origins happen to be an important determiner of success. Such a system leaves little room for social mobility.

The middle class is the economic engine of any developed society. The presence of a large middle-class population is what differentiates the developed nations from their developing counterparts. Therefore, developing countries need to have social mobility, which can allow the poor to move towards middle-class status. Mexico’s rigid class system prevents social mobility from happening as it prioritizes the welfare of the rich over the poor. Institutionalized classism means that services such as healthcare and education are not equitably distributed. Even employment, which is the biggest driver for social mobility, ends being an instrument for classism. For example, according to Flores & Telles (2012), the children of white-collar workers are 3.5 times more likely to secure white-collar jobs, than the children of blue-collar workers. Such a number is higher than any other Latin American country and even higher than the United States.


For a country to experience an upward trajectory, they need to have a society that gives everyone an equal chance of success regardless of their family background. The community needs to operate on meritocracy. Classism doesn’t create much room for meritocracy because people from wealthy backgrounds get priority irrespective of their qualifications. That, in turn, translates to lower productivity and underperforming. On the other hand, the ones who are qualified for the job but overlooked because of the family background end up working in the lower echelons of the society where their talent and potential fails to be realized. Mexico’s Northern neighbor managed to develop its economy by making use of the available ability to achieve high productivity. When people are given an equal chance, then the most talented, skilled, smartest, innovative, and hardworking individuals will always find a way to rise above the rest. However, a society that has classism, such as Mexico, doesn’t get to utilize such individuals. Most of them will also seek to leave in search of better opportunities. They are hence creating another problem that has impeded Mexico’s development.

Mexico’s proximity to the United States has proven to have its benefits, but it also carries its fair share of cons. According to a study by Passel (2012), more than a hundred thousand Mexicans moved from Mexico to the United States every year, starting from 2005 to 2010. Although Mexico has ended up benefiting from remittances from the U.S, it also loses a lot of its productive population through brain drain. The institutionalized classism, combined with discrimination, denies those from the poor background a chance at opportunities such as education, which they need for social mobility. Many of these people decide to leave in search of better opportunities in the U.S. and their northern neighbor ends up being the one to benefit from the talent and skills of the Mexican population. Mexico is the country with the highest number with a section of its people that live in a foreign country. Approximately 97% of that number live in the United States. As a result, one of Mexico’s essential resources, which is its people, end up developing the economy of its Northern neighbor at the expense of Mexico’s. Therefore, accelerated immigration to the United States from Mexico at the end of the 20th century is one of the events that altered Mexico’s upward trajectory.

Also, the high class who benefit from the flaws in the system are the ones that prevent any meaningful change from being implemented. Attempts to open up Mexico’s economy have been blocked by the oligarchs and monopolies who hold power in Mexico. Important sectors of the economy, such as telecommunications and energy, are still controlled by few companies and individuals who hold significant sway in Mexico’s political class. Their actions have prevented the full liberalization of the Mexican economy, which would have allowed for fair competition and created innovation. As a result, the Mexican economy failed to take off and propel the country towards the developed status.


Racial difference is the elephant in the room. Economists and researchers are quick to talk about the socio-economic differences as the thorn in the flesh Mexico’s economy, but few talk about race in Mexico’s social stratification system. Aquilar (2011) points out that conventional wisdom in Mexico purports that discrimination in Mexico occurs along socio-economic lines, but the racial appearance is not essential in the matter. The same observation is made by Flores & Telles (2012), who note that Mexican scholars such as Andrés Villareal (A.V.) recognize the impact of racism in Mexico’s racial stratification.

Some studies have identified education differences between people of different skin tones. A survey conducted by Zimbo-Colunga & Martinez (2017), indicated that the Mexicans with medium skin tones spent between 8.4 to 9.1 years in school. That figure is higher than the dark-skinned Mexicans who spend between 4.1 years and 6.1 years in school. However, the light skin Mexicans spent more time in school than both the dark-skinned and medium skinned Mexicans. The light-skinned Mexicans spent between 10.4 years and 11.7 years in school. The 10.4 years is more than the highest point for both medium skinned and dark-skinned Mexicans.

The variation is a clear indication that the level of education that one is likely to receive is affected by the color of their skin. The same differences are carried forward concerning wealth. The study by Zimbo-Colunga & Martinez (2017), shows that those with light skin tone fall within the 70th percentile of wealth in the country, while the darker skin tones are within the bottom 50 percent. That is a show that the wealth and skin color are related, hence an indication of some form of institutionalized racism in the country.

Research on the impact of racism on the Mexican economy is limited. Racism is a serious issue all over the world, but in Mexico, many try to avoid and ignore its prevalence within Mexican society. But that doesn’t mean that the government has neglected it. One of the significant events in Mexico’s history is the inclusion of the right to non-discrimination to the constitution at the end of the 20th century. Since then, there have been individual efforts against discrimination (Montenegro & Fernández, 2011). The inclusion gave good prospects for Mexico’s economy, but it never materialized. While the law prohibits racism, its implementation has proven to be a challenge, and that meant that cut short what was supposed to be Mexico’s upward trajectory, which started around the same time.

Racism denies equal rights and opportunities to an individual. It excludes him or her from participating in the building of the economy. Racism is intertwined with social class discrimination because the ones that mostly discriminated based on race are the ones that experience class discrimination. The issue of race is mainly defined by the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous communities (Aguilar, 2011). Although Mexico’s culturally indigenous communities have decreased over time, the indigenous ethnicity continues among urban immigrants (Telles & Flores, 2012).


All economies require a level playing field that promises growth and social mobility for anyone willing to work hard. Racial issues and class systems prevent that from happening as it places the needs of the few over the needs of the many. That means that a significant portion of the population does not get a chance to contribute to the economy. Also, when such a form of discrimination becomes institutionalized, it will have long-lasting effects that extend beyond one generation. These factors have impeded Mexico’s development and forced a portion of its population to seek greener pastures elsewhere.


Aguilar Pariente, R. (2011). Social and political consequences of stereotypes related to racial phenotypes in Mexico.

Flores, R., & Telles, E. (2012). SOCIAL STRATIFICATION IN MEXICO: DISENTANGLING COLOR, ETHNICITY, AND CLASS. American sociological review, 77(3), 486–494.

Montenegro, P., & Fernández, L. (2011). National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico | Enadis 2010.Overall Results. National Council to Prevent Discrimination.

O’Neil, K. (2011, February 11). Mexico: Development and democracy at a crossroads. Council on Foreign Relations.

Passel, J. (2012). D’Vera Cohn, and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, “. Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less, 43-44.

Zizumbo-Colunga, D., & Martinez, F. (2017). Is Mexico a post-racial country? Inequality and skin tone across America. America’s Barometer.

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