JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Mexicans are getting older, bearing fewer children and having second thoughts about religion, newly released Mexico 2020 census data shows.

But they’re also embracing personal technology at unprecedented rates and are as much into entertainment streaming services as their parents were into portable radios or going to the movies.

“We are seeing an important increase in the percentage of homes with cellular telephones, internet services, computers and tablets. Likewise, homes now have fewer (standard) television sets, radios and telephone landlines,” said Julio Alfonso Santaella, president of Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information (INEGI).

Julio Alfonso Santaella

This shift toward technology likely has wide-ranging implications for domestic and multinational corporations marketing products and services to Mexicans, as well as for manufacturers looking for a tech-savvy or tech-trainable workforce, some border officials say.

“It’s good to have a population that is knowledgeable about technology. I think that makes us attractive to manufacturers,” said Juarez City Councilor Enrique Torres. “On the other hand, sometimes this technology takes precedence over family. Sometimes you sit at the dinner table and everybody is looking at their cellphone, their tablet or their video game.”

Mexico earlier this year conducted its decennial population count despite the onset of COVID-19. Pollsters visited millions of homes March 2-27 and recorded the information on tablets. Residents were also able to self-report the information online through the end of May.

This chart shows, among others, the increase in the use of personal technology in Mexico in the last 10 years. (Courtesy INEGI)

Mexico has 126 million inhabitants in 2020, compared to 112.3 million in 2010, Santaella said this week in a 95-minute teleconference broadcast on social media.

A stark finding was that the median age of the population went from 26 years to 29 years in a decade and that the average Mexican woman has 2.1 children, down from 2.6 in 2000, Santaella said. The so-called fertility rate is even lower in Mexico City, at 1.3 children.

“The population is aging. This doesn’t’ mean we’re a country of old people. But as time passes, we have a higher number of older people and a lesser number of younger people. This has several implications for our health and education policy,” he said.

Nearly 1 million Americans are living in Mexico

The census included homeless people and immigrants in its count. The foreign-born population in Mexico increased by a quarter of a million between 2010 and 2020, Santaella said. Three out of four of the 1.2 million foreign-born residents are Americans (961,000), while 57,000 identified themselves as Guatemalans and 53,000 as Venezuelans.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants from all over the world but primarily from the Northern Triangle of Central America rushed to the U.S.-Mexico border from late 2018 to mid-2019 fleeing crime, poverty and looking for political asylum. Venezuelans have been fleeing their country in the past decade after the socialist takeover first by Hugo Chavez and now my Nicolas Maduro.

The census didn’t probe immigration status or length of stay, so it’s unknown how many of the Guatemalans and other international citizens came during the surge and decided to stay.

The pollsters did ask questions of race and ethnicity, documenting that 2 million people, or 2.5% of the population, identify themselves as of African descent. Santaella said some of them identified themselves as migrants.

Santaella said the census found that education rates continue to climb, with the average Mexican 15 years or older having completed 9.7 years of schooling. That’s a big increase compared to the average 7.7 years of schooling in 2000, he said.

The gains were particularly strong among females, who in the past 20 years have closed the gender gap to within 0.2 percentage points compared to males, he added.

Almost half of Mexican women are now economically active – either employed or self-employed – compared to less than one in three in 2000, Santaella said.

Catholic faithful, wearing masks and practicing distancing, attend Mass as the Metropolitan Cathedral reopens to the public amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, in Mexico City, Sunday, July 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Another major social finding by census-takers points to a decline in Catholicism. The survey shows that fewer people identify themselves as Catholic in 2020 than they did in 2010 (77.7% vs. 82.7%) and that the percentage of self-proclaimed atheists rose from 4.7% to 8.1%. The Protestant/evangelical movement grew from 7.5% to 11.2% in that 10-year span, according to the census.

Population creeping northward

The census again identified the country’s largest population areas and some new trends emerged.

“The Mexican population is moving to various states. We have states that have become receptors of and those that ‘expel’ residents. A lot of (states) from the Southeast and also Mexico City are seeing more people leave than settle in,” Santaella said.

States in the north, near the United States, grew at a larger rate than those in the south, with one exception: the state of Quintana Roo, which includes the popular tourist resorts of Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. The resorts are not only a cash-cow for the region, but also generate jobs and attract domestic and foreign investment.

Major metropolitan population centers in Mexico 2020 (Courtesy INEGI)

Mexico’s 10 largest metropolitan areas as of March 2020 were:

  • Mexico City (MSA), 21.8 million people
  • Monterrey, 5.2 million
  • Guadalajara, 5.2 million
  • Puebla-Tlaxcala, 3.2 million
  • Toluca (State of Mexico), 2.4 million
  • Tijuana, 2.2 million
  • Leon, 1.9 million
  • Queretaro, 1.6 million
  • Juarez, 1.5 million
  • Torreon-Laguna 1.4 million

Several metro areas surpassed the 1 million-mark, including Mexicali, Saltillo, Culiacan, Aguascalientes and Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Juarez Councilor Torres said growth comes at a price. He said cities like Juarez weren’t prepared for such growth and need to invest in services and infrastructure for residents.

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