The Mexican state offers its citizens a surprisingly low level of social insurance given the country’s relative prosperity (hat tip: David Kaplan):
Brazil, Costa Rica and Uruguay are all outliers in the opposite direction, but for clear historical reasons. The latter two countries democratized early (even if Uruguay backslid) and enjoyed relatively homogenous populations. They established social insurance programs early on, unlike the rest of Latin America. Brazil, meanwhile, authorized a lot of social spending as part of its democratic settlement in 1986. Brazil has an extremely inefficient state, but it does provide social protection. For the details, see my friend Lee Alston and his coauthors.
In the other direction, the fact that Guatemala and Honduras underperform really comes as no surprise.
But Mexico? That should be a surprise.
But only a partial surprise! Under the dictatorship of the PRI, Mexico deliberately neglected universal social insurance in favor of particularistic benefits designed to have maximum political benefit in a world where most political benefits were not delivered via popular votes. It is no surprise that Mexico reached the year 2000 behind the rest of Latin America, even countries that had experienced long bouts of military rule. For more on this, go read Mexico Since 1980.
What is more surprising is that after twelve years of democracy, the country has caught up so little.