Youth Education and Employment in Mexico City: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Date01 March 2020
Published date01 March 2020
190 ANNALS, AAPSS, 688, March 2020
DOI: 10.1177/0002716220910391
Education and
Employment in
Mexico City: A
Research on young Mexicans tends to focus on their
limited educational and occupational opportunities and
the increasing extent to which they are not in educa-
tion, employment, or training (NEET). In this article,
we describe the prevalence and determinants of being
NEET in Mexico City using data from the National
Survey of Occupation and Employment and from forty
in-depth interviews. Quantitative findings on the deter-
minants of education and employment in this study are
consistent with previous research. Barriers to education
for those in NEET include low rates of admission to
public universities, economic difficulties, family obliga-
tions, and difficulties connecting schooling and future
employment. Barriers to employment include a lack of
job opportunities, discrimination against inexperienced
workers, and the undesirability of low-wage employ-
ment. Despite setbacks, respondents expressed a desire
to attain education and gainful employment in the
future, but many, especially the most educated, were
willing to wait for the right university or job.
Keywords: children and youth; education; inclusion
and exclusion; qualitative methodology;
quantitative methodology
Recently, a specific concern in the literature
on youth in Mexico is the proportion of
young people who are “neither in education,
employment, or training” (NEET) (International
Labour Organization 2010; Pérez Baleón 2012).
Much of the conversation in research and policy
Gabriela Sánchez-Soto is a research analyst at the
Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice
University. Her research interests include the occupa-
tional and educational outcomes of young people in
Mexico and the United States. Some of her recent pub-
lications look at the occupational mobility and earnings
of Mexican immigrants in the United States.
Andrea Bautista León is a level 1 member of the
National Research System in Mexico. Her research
interests include transitions from school to work, longi-
tudinal analysis, social mobility, labor demography,
family demography, and return migration.
regarding NEETs in Mexico has centered on their potential impact on the future
of the country’s labor force. Existing work has focused on challenges in the meas-
urement and definition of NEET and on identifying characteristics related to
NEET status. Research finds that being NEET is related to socioeconomic status,
to the characteristics of the household of origin, and to decreasing labor opportuni-
ties despite increased enrolment in high school and college (Rosique Cañas 2013;
Arceo-Gómez and Campos-Vázquez 2012; Murayama 2010). However, more
insights are still needed, as some definitions may overestimate the degree to which
NEET youth are inactive, particularly for those who are engaged in unconventional
employment, housework, and caregiving. Additionally, research that explores how
young people perceive their challenges and opportunities is required to better
understand how these factors relate to NEET prevalence.
This article has two objectives: first, to compare the prevalence of NEET status
relative to other activities; and second, to explore the determinants of being NEET
relative to other activities. We use data from the Encuesta Nacional de Occupación
y Empleo (ENOE; National Survey of Occupation and Employment) and data from
in-depth interviews with NEETs collected in Mexico City during 2015 and 2016.
Mexico has the sixth highest proportion of NEETs among the member states of
the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). By
some estimates, there are 7.8 million NEETs in Mexico, or 22 percent of the
population aged 12 to 29 (Rosique Cañas 2013; Negrete Prieto and Leyva Parra
2013; OECD 2020). Although only some of these youth declare themselves to be
unemployed, 19 percent are not actively looking for a job and are detached from
the labor market altogether (OECD 2016).
The presence of NEETs in Mexican culture goes beyond academia; the
Spanish acronym for NEET1 has made its way into colloquial language as a short-
hand for youth’s unfulfilled potential, often perceived to be due to lack of motiva-
tion and disregard for hard work. A quick review of national and regional media
shows an increase in its use during the last decade. The rhetoric goes from alarm-
ist news that speak of NEETs as a “lost generation” (Zepeda 2013; Murayama
2010), while more measured media speaks of them as victims of structural disad-
vantages in the education system and labor market (Roldan 2016; Rosique Cañas
2013; Miranda 2015).
Existing research about Mexican youth in NEET focuses on two main areas.
The first focuses on the definition, measurement, and prevalence in nationally
representative data. Leyva and Negrete Prieto (2014) question the widespread
assumption that NEETs are inactive or “doing nothing,” and suggest many in this
category do not attend school or engage in work due to family and care commit-
ments. In addition, it is likely that sporadic and unpaid work is not properly
reflected in employment data available from cross-sectional surveys. Another
possibility is that activity status varies throughout the year as employment and
educational opportunities fluctuate.

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