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Indigenous Girls in Rural Mexico

A Success Story?

Mercedes González de la Rocha and Agustín Escobar Latapí

Keywords: ethnicity; gender; social policy; Oportunidades; PROGRESA; PROSPERA; social mobility

For as long as national records have been kept, Indigenous rural girls in Mexico

have spent the least amount of time in school (aside from some people with disabilities).

An innovative social program was designed in the 1990s that aimed to

stop the intergenerational transmission of poverty through the provision of cash

transfers (higher for girls than for boys) to families, conditional upon their children’s

attendance at school and health clinics. We set out to assess whether or not

the program had closed these gender and ethnicity gaps and found that it did narrow

substantially pre-existing inequalities among rural indigenous poor girls and

their families and, in some instances, reversed them. We recognize that the program

does not eliminate other structural forces discriminating against indigenous

Mexican girls and that prolonged education is an instrument for mobility only if

these other forces are counterbalanced by more comprehensive social strategies.

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