The Problem

Child Poverty in Baja California

Baja California is the wild west of Mexico. Its development has been limited, yet the opportunity for growth remains appealing, and so the region frequently draws Mexicans looking for work. However, Baja’s tumultuous history, lack of government support, and harsh environment often thrust hopeful migrants into utter, long-term poverty. The result is an enormous population of children living below the poverty line.

Key Child Poverty Issues:

  • Parents earn low wages and suffer underemployment.
  • Families merely survive in sub-standard living conditions.
  • Lack of education and limited access to schooling hinders improvement.
  • Drug wars and poverty-related crimes leave many children parentless.
  • Limited government social services fail to adequately care for orphans.

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History of Poverty in Baja California

Poverty is inextricably entwined with Baja California’s recent history. Baja is a naturally harsh region. Deserts, mountains, and primitive beaches all packed into one narrow peninsula leave little room for comfortable living. The climate is no more forgiving. Life here has always been a challenge.

Where Poverty Started

In the early 1900s, the Mexican government lured poor peasants from central and southern Mexico into the wilderness of Baja California. Trusting the government’s promise of land, housing and agricultural resources, many poor and desperate Mexican citizens went. Settlements in Baja California (called “Ejidos”) saw their populations grow by the hundreds.

But only disappointment was there to greet the newcomers. Bureaucratic red tape blocked fulfillment of government promises and unscrupulous officials made off with much of the available funds. Stranded in a harsh new land, migrants made do with what they had, but it was rarely enough.

Baja Poverty Today

Baja California’s first deluge of abandoned Mexican migrants foretold decades of strife to come. Severely set back, poor Baja residents were pushed to the brink of devastation and are still fighting for survival today.

In January 2013, a Baja California census was published by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (National Institute of Statistic and Geography or INEGI). It reported that Baja California has more than 320,000 people living in poverty, meaning that 13% of this Mexican state’s population does not have a home or reliable means to acquire food.

Furthermore, a study released in May 2014 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in cooperation with the Mexican government found that “more than 20 million Mexican children and adolescents – nearly 53 percent of the under-18 population – live in poverty, and more than 4 million of them in extreme poverty.”

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