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close this bookThe Mega-city in Latin America (UNU, 1996, 282 pages)
close this folder8. Mexico City: No longer a leviathan?
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe Mexican urban structure: the roots of centralism
View the documentThe debt crisis and its aftermath
View the documentMexico City's changing urban structure
View the documentAdministration and finance
View the documentCurrent issues and policy approaches
View the documentConclusions
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences


When the United Nations issued a report on Mexico City in 1991, it concluded that "in recent years ... projections of Mexico City's population have converged, with most now assuming a population of 25 to 27 million by the end of the century" (UNDIESA, 1991: 7). Only two years later, however, new data combined with assessments of the effects of new national policies cast doubt on whether the city will ever reach this size, let alone do so in less than a decade. An important factor in this reassessment has been the subsequent release of the 1990 population census, which added to a growing conviction that the 1980 data upon which many of the more spectacular projections rested was significantly incorrect. The 1990 data show a much more modest rise than previously expected in the city's population since 1970.

Forecasting error is not the only cause for reconsidering estimates of the future size of Mexico City. The scope and rapidly spreading consequences of economic reforms brought about by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari since 1988 have added credence to projections of a smaller Mexico City.

Internationalization of the Mexican economy since 1986 has had a marked effect on the country's urban structure. Examination of the 1990 population census confirms that on balance people and jobs are no longer moving to Mexico City or to the central region of the country. Recent economic census data tell a similar story, suggesting that these trends will continue because new investment in manufacturing has tended to occur outside the Mexico City region.

If population movements continue to follow the current pattern of deconcentrated economic expansion, the doomsday scenarios for an overcrowded, unmanageable Mexico City should be rethought. More importantly, the policies and proposals designed to cope with traffic congestion, air pollution, water, housing, and solid waste disposal have to be reassessed. The cost of dealing with these problems may be less than previously predicted.