Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Competition for the drug cartels?

The growth of the Mexican middle class is a big deal for the political culture. The questions to ask revolve around the violence of the drug wars and growing poverty of the rural poor.

Mexico’s middle class is becoming its majority
A wary but tenacious middle class is fast becoming the majority in Mexico, breaking down the rich-poor divide in a profound demographic transformation that has far-reaching implications here and in the United States…

The stereotype is no longer an illegal immigrant hustling for day labor outside a Home Depot in Phoenix. The new Mexican is the overscheduled soccer dad shopping for a barbecue grill inside a Home Depot in booming Mexican cities like Queretaro.

When President Felipe Calderon of the center-right National Action Party won in 2006, outpolling the leftist Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, it was the middle class that gave Calderon his wafer-thin victory.

And in the presidential election in July, Mexico’s growing economic center will again be decisive, say political analysts from all three major parties.

The Mexican middle class is heterogeneous, anxious and divided among the major political parties; its members are socially moderate but fiscally conservative, cynical about political promises and fearful that recent gains could be lost in a financial crisis or social upheaval — the kind that buffeted Mexico in the 1990s…

In the developing world, in countries such as India, China and Mexico, scholars argue, the middle class can be defined by what its members consume, and so a Mexican homeowning household with a new refrigerator, a car and a couple of cellphones is considered middle-class — even if the combined salaries of the members of the household would make them miserably poor in Washington.

Another measure is perception: You are middle-class if you think you are middle-class. A February survey of Mexicans by the independent pollster Jorge Buendia reports that 65 percent of respondents consider themselves in the middle (27 percent described themselves as lower class, and only 2 percent copped to upper-class status)…

Willy Azarcoya, founder of a small marketing research firm… acknowledged that Mexico still harbors a huge number of poor — between a fourth and half the population, depending on the measures (food security vs. ability to buy needed household goods). Poverty ticked upward slightly after the 2008 global recession, but Mexico’s middle-class march is back on track, and the broader trajectory shows a steady climb out of mass poverty…

Smaller families are a hallmark of the growing middle class. In 1960, Mexico’s fertility rate was 7.3 children per woman, according to World Bank figures. Today, it’s 2.3, slightly above the U.S. rate of 2.1…

Since 1980, the number of Mexicans receiving a university education has tripled, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)…

The number of credit cards in circulation nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2009, according to Mexico’s Central Bank, but debt leaves many Mexicans sensing that their foothold in the middle class is slippery…

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