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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

Mexico City's changing urban structure

Population growth and decentralization

The results of the 1990 census suggest that two significant changes have occurred in Mexico City. First, population growth has slowed (table 8.4). Between 1970 and 1990, average annual population growth for Mexico City was half of what the 1970 to 1980 data suggested. The explanation for this depends on the credibility accorded the 1980 census figures. If they are discarded, we can conclude that population growth fell gradually over the twenty-year period. If not, the 1980 data suggest that rapid metropolitan growth continued through the 1970s and then fell off sharply in the 1980s, presumably in response to the economic crisis beginning in 1982. However, this view implies that average annual growth plummeted from 4.4 per cent in the 1970s to 0.2 per cent in the 1980s. A drop of this extent is unlikely.

Table 8.4 Population growth in Mexico City, 1970-1990


Total population

Average annual growth (%)

Share of population


1970

1990

1970-80

1970-90

1970

1990

Mexico City total

9,210,853

14,685,098

4.4

2.3

100.0

100.0

Central City

3,002,984

1,930,267

- 1.1

- 2.2

32.6

13.1

First Ring

4,874,557

7,126,731

4.5

1.9

52.9

48.5

Second Ring

1,321,813

4,628,213

9.6

6.3

14.4

31.5

Third Ring

11,499

999,887

38.7

22.3

0.1

6.8

Source: Gordon, 1992.

Mexico City Ring definitions:
Central City
DF: Benito Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, Miguel Hidalgo, Venustiano Carranza.
First Ring:
DF: Azcapotzalco, Coyoacán, Cuajimalpa, Gustavo A. Madero, Iztacalco, Iztapalapa, Alvaro Obregón. State of Mexico: Naucalpán, Netzahualcóyotl
Second Ring:
DF: Magdalena Contreras, Tláhuac, Tlalpán, Xochimilco. State of Mexico: Atizapán de Zaragoza, Chimalhuacán, Coacalco, Cuautitlán Izcalli, Ecatepec, Huixquilucán, La Paz, Tlalnepantla de Baz, Tultitlán.
Third Ring:
DF: Milpa Alta. State of Mexico: Chalco, Chiautla, Chicoloapán, Chiconcuac, Cuautitlán, Ixtapaluca, Melchor Ocampo, Nicolás Romero, Tecamac, Tultepec.

The second change has been an acceleration in the pace of decentralization of population from the centre of the city towards more recently urbanized areas. Beginning in the 1950s, the Mexico City Metropolitan Zone has grown beyond the original boundaries of what is now referred to as the Central City (the present-day delegations of Benito Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, Miguel Hidalgo, and Venustiano Carranza) to include increasing numbers of delegations in the Federal District and municipalities in the adjoining State of Mexico (Garza and Schteingart, 1978) (figure 8.2). Three additional "rings" of settlement have been incorporated into Mexico City since that time (Negrete-Salas et al., 1993). The movement of population from the Central City toward the outermost rings began in the 1950s and accelerated through the following decades (Garza and Schteingart, 1978: 70). The bulk of the population now lives in the First and Second Rings, while the Second and Third Rings have been growing most rapidly. The Central City is in decline; its population in 1990 was only two-thirds of its 1970 total.


Figure 8.2 Mexico City: Administrative divisions

Trends in employment location in Mexico City

Garza and Schteingart (1978: 63) report that Mexico City's share of the country's industrial firms has been in decline since the early 1960s. Table 8.5 shows that industrial employment in Mexico City peaked around 1980, and has declined since then. Within the capital there has been a strong trend towards decentralization. Table 8.6 shows that the central city has been growing less rapidly than the outer rings ever since the 1960s, a process that intensified in the 1980s.

Table 8.5 Industrial employment by ring, 1960-1988


1960

1970

1975

1980

1985

1988

Mexico City total

407,005

672,446

733,389

1,059,182

859,432

745,387

Central City

214,769

252,238

221,209

271,666

211,033

176,350

First Ring

133,864

297,555

334,544

481,455

414,917

376,539

Second Ringa

52,248

115,837

172,293

290,394

215,769

172,533

Third Ringa

6,124

6,816

5,343

15,667

17,713

19,965

Sources: Derived from Garza, 1987, and INEGI, 1989.
a. For consistency with historical records, the municipalities of Huixquilucán and Chimalhua can have been excluded from the Second Ring data for 1985 and 1988, while Chiautla, Chicoloapan, Chiconcuac, Melchor Ocampo, and Tultepec have been excluded from Third Ring data for 1985 and 1988.

Table 8.6 Average annual growth rates in industrial employment by nag, 1960-1988 (percentages)


1960-70

1970 80

1980-88

1980-85

1985-88

Mexico City total

16.7

15.1

- 11.6

- 7.0

- 4.8

Central City

5.4

2.5

- 14.4

- 8.4

- 6.0

First Ring

26.6

16.0

- 8.2

- 5.0

- 3.2

Second Ringa

26.5

30.6

- 17.2

- 9.9

- 7.5

Third Ringa

3.6

27.7

10.8

4.1

4.0

Sources: Derived from Garza, 1987, and INEGI, 1989.

a. For consistency with historical records, the municipalities of Huixquilucán and Chimalhua can have been excluded from the Second Ring data for 1985 and 1988, while Chiautla, Chicoloapan, Chiconcuac, Melchor Ocampo, and Tultepec have been excluded from Third Ring data for 1985 and 1988.

Not surprisingly, the most recent data show a pattern of employment decentralization within Mexico City similar to the movement in population. Table 8.7 shows that employment grew only in the Third Ring. There were large job losses in manufacturing in the Second Ring, but the commerce and services sectors recorded high growth rates, albeit less than those of the Third Ring. At higher levels of disaggregation some sectors did grow in the inner rings (for example wholesaling and some service sectors), but the general trend is for faster growth outside the central area.

Table 8.7 Average annual growth of employment by sector, 1985-1988 (percentages)


Total

Manufacturing

Commerce

Service

Mexico City total

—0.9

- 4.7

1.1

3.8

Central City

—0.9

- 6.0

- 0.2

2.6

First Ring

—1.0

- 3.2

0.4

3.3

Second Ring

—2.3

- 7.4

4.6

12.4

Third Ring

9.6

4.9

13.8

15.4

Source: Derived from INEGI, 1989.

Table 8.8 Metropolitan employment by sector, 1985 and 1988


Total

Manufacturing

Commerce

Service


1985

1988

1985

1988

1985

1988

1985

1988

Central City

666,506

649,185

211,033

176,350

222,366

220,931

233,107

251,904

Share

37.8

37.9

24.5

23.6

43.4

41.7

59.7

57.6

First Ring

753,776

731,199

414,917

376,539

213,980

216,791

124,879

137,869

Share

42.7

42.6 48.2

50.3

41.8

40.9

32.0

31.5


Second Ring

308,709

287,907

216,611

173,506

63,613

73,122

25,485

41,279

Share

17.5

16.8

25.2

23.2

12.4

13.8

7.3

9.4

Third Ring

35,110

46,759

18,683

21,636

12,403

18,741

4,024

6,382

Share

2.0

2.7

2.2

2.9

2.4

3.5

1.0

1.5

Total

1,764,101

1,715,050

861,244

746,031

512,362

529,585

390,495

437,434

Source: Derived from INEGI, 1989.

Examination of the changing shares of economic activity presents a less clear picture of decentralization (see table 8.8). Overall, the Third Ring increased its share of employment, but at the expense of the First and Second Rings rather than the Central City. While the Second Ring lost manufacturing employment to the First and Third, it gained in commerce and services. These apparently contradictory trends can be explained by the observation that between 1985 and 1988, the metropolitan area as a whole lost over 113,000 jobs in manufacturing - 5 per cent of its total employment in this sector.

Aguilar (1993) has documented this general pattern of spatial deconcentration in manufacturing between 1975 and 1985. Working with more highly disaggregated employment data, he shows how certain types of manufacturing and service activities are more likely to decentralize from the city centre than others. Firms serving local markets move out, presumably following the suburbanizing population while those with links to national and international markets are more likely to remain in the centre. He sees a resurgence of "high technology" industries, such as electronics, as well as printing and publishing in the central area, between 1975 and 1985. His disaggregated service-sector data show decentralization in consumer services, while business services remained in the central city.

Both the employment data and the population data tell the same story: Mexico City continues to decentralize rapidly. The doomsday scenarios regarding pollution, traffic congestion, and other problems associated with a large and concentrated population are being challenged by adjustments in patterns of economic activity in the metropolitan region and nationwide. However, a number of serious difficulties remain for the city in the areas of urban administration and finance, housing, urban services, air pollution, and traffic management.