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.