Mexico's 2015 Intercensal Survey

Trends in Ethnicity, Language and Migration

By John P. Schmal
Published on LatinoLA: September 4, 2017

Mexico's 2015 Intercensal Survey

Mexico's 2015 Intercensal Survey

In 2016, the Mexican government agency, Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI), published the 2015 Intercensal Survey, which upgraded Mexico's socio-demographic information to the midpoint between the 2010 census and the census to be carried out in 2020. With a sample size of over 6 million homes, this survey provides information on the national, state and municipio level, as of March 15th, 2015.

Considered Indigenous Classification
One of the 2015 survey questions asked, "De acuerdo, con su cultura, se considera indígena?" Essentially, Mexican residents were being asked if they considered themselves indigenous through their culture. Survey respondents had four possible responses:

1. Sí (Yes)
2. Sí, en parte (Yes, in part)
3. No
4. No sabe (Do not know)

Based on the responses to this question, eight Mexican states in 2015 had populations that considered one-third or more of their people to be of indigenous descent, as noted below:

1. Oaxaca (65.7% indigenous population)
2. Yucatán (65.4%)
3. Campeche (44.5%)
4. Quintana Roo (44.4%)
5. Hidalgo (36.2%)
6. Chiapas (36.1%)
7. Puebla (35.3%)
8. Guerrero (33.9%)

Nearly two-thirds of the populations of both Oaxaca and Yucatán considered themselves to be indigenous. In all, 16 states had an indigenous population of over 20%. On the other hand, the state with the lowest percentage of persons considered indigenous was Tamaulipas (6.3%), followed by two other northern Mexican states: Nuevo León (6.9%) and Coahuila (6.9%).

Across all states, the survey reported that 21.5% of all Mexicans considered themselves to be of indigenous descent, which means that more than one-fifth of the entire population of the nation recognized its indigenous origins.

The Indigenous-Speaking Population
The 2015 census count told a different story with regards to the population of persons 3 years of age and older who spoke Indigenous languages. While 21.5 percent of Mexican residents recognize that their culture and physical appearance has been inherited from indigenous ancestors, a much smaller percent of people actually speak an indigenous language: 6.5%.

Another question in the 2015 survey asked each participant if they spoke an indigenous dialect or language. Only persons 3 years of age and older were considered for this category.

Not a single state had a population of indigenous speakers that exceeded one-third of its total population. Only Oaxaca -- with 32.2% of its people speaking indigenous languages -- approached the one-third mark. As a matter of fact, only eight states actually had populations of 10% or more who spoke indigenous languages, as noted below:

1. Oaxaca (32.2% indigenous language speakers)
2. Yucatán (28.9%)
3. Chiapas (27.9%)
4. Quintana Roo (16.6%)
5. Guerrero (15.3%)
6. Hidalgo (14.2%)
7. Campeche (11.5%)
8. Puebla (11.3%)
9. San Luis Potosí (10.0%)

Among many of the Mexican states, there were some interesting contrasts. For example:

++ While 65.7% of Oaxaca residents considered themselves to be indigenous, only one-third (32.2%) could actually speak an indigenous language.
++ While one-third of Guerrero's population (33.9%) considered themselves to be indigenous, only 15.3% spoke an indigenous language.
++ Although Jalisco has the fourth largest population in Mexico and 11.1% of its residents considered themselves to be indigenous, a mere 0.8% of its inhabitants actually speak an indigenous language.
++ As the state ranked lowest in total population, Colima offers an unusual contrast with an indigenous population of 20.4%, but only 0.6% of its residents speak an indigenous language.
++ While only 0.2% of the people in Guanajuato speak indigenous languages, nearly one-tenth of the population (9.1%) considered themselves to be indigenous.

The Afromexican Population
Still another 2015 survey question asked "De acuerdo con su cultura, historia y tradiciones, se considera negra (o), es decir, afromexicana (o) o afrodescendiente?" Essentially, each Mexican resident was asked if, according to their culture, history and traditions, they considered themselves to be black (i.e., an Afromexican or Afro-descendant). Once again, each respondent had four possible answers.

The survey revealed that only nine states had Afromexican populations that exceeded 0.5%, as illustrated in the following table:

1. Guerrero (6.5%)
2. Oaxaca (4.9%)
3. Veracruz (3.3%)
4. Estado de México (1.9%)
5. Distrito Federal (1.8%)
6. Baja California Sur (1.5%)
7. Nuevo León (1.5%)
8. Jalisco (0.8%)
9. Quintana Roo (0.6%)

While census data from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries indicate that many African slaves labored throughout Mexico in the colonial period, assimilation with Spaniards, mestizos and Indians over time had reduced their cultural influence on present-day populations in Mexico.

Principal Indigenous Languages
In the 2015 Intercensal Survey it was revealed that only seven indigenous languages have 4% or more of the share of Mexican indigenous speakers 3 years of age and older in the Mexican Republic, and they are noted as follows:

1. Náhuatl (23.4% of all indigenous language speakers)
2. Maya (11.6%)
3. Tzeltal (7.5%)
4. Mixteco (7.0%)
5. Tzotzil (6.6%)
6. Zapoteco (6.5%)
7. Otomí (4.2%)

As in past censuses, Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs, continued to be the language of almost one-quarter of all indigenous speakers in Mexico. Thanks to the widespread migration of laborers from one part of Mexico to another, nearly all of these "Top Seven" languages are spoken in a wide range of states, some of which are far from the original homeland of the language.

For example, Mixteco and Zapoteco are spoken by a small numbers of people living in the northern states of Baja California, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas. In the State of Jalisco, Mixtec and Zapotec speakers represent over 10% of the indigenous speakers in the state.

Mexican Migration from Place of Origin
According to the 2015 Intercensal Survey, with the information on the place of birth of each survey respondent, INEGI reported that 17.4% of Mexican residents throughout the country were either born in an entity other than the entity in which they resided, or were born abroad (i.e., U.S., Guatemala, etc.).

According to the 2015 Survey, the following states have the largest percentage of their populations born in another entity (Mexican state or the Distrito Federal) or another country:

1. Quintana Roo (54.1%)
2. Baja California (44.1%)
3. Baja California Sur (39.6%)
4. Estado de México (33.7%)
5. Colima (28.7%)
6. Morelos (27.3%)
7. Querétaro (25.4%)
8. Campeche (24.0%)
9. Tamaulipas (23.1%)
10. Nuevo León (21.2%)

The states with the least percent of people born in another country or state were Chiapas (3.4%), Guerrero (4.9%) and Oaxaca (6.2%).

Migration and Indigenous Languages
If the high level of migration continues in many parts of Mexico, Indigenous languages will continue to be spread across the entire Mexican Republic. However, with new generations of children and grandchildren adapting to new cultural environments, it is also possible that some of the descendants of these migrants will no longer speak their mother tongue and will become more comfortable with the Spanish language, which will lead to the continued decline in indigenous speakers as a percentage of the total Mexican population.


More detailed information for all the Mexican states is contained in the following source materials.

INEGI, "Principales resultados de la Encuesta Intercensal 2015. Estado Unidos Mexicanos: III: Etnicidad." Online:

INEGI, "Encuesta Intercensal 2015: Cuestionario para viviendas particulares habitadas y población." Online:

John P. Schmal, "Racial and Cultural Identity in Mexico: 2015." Online: CENSUS

About John P. Schmal:
John P. Schmal is a lecturer and a writer on the topics of Mexican genealogy, Indigenous Mexico and German history.
Author's website

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