Although Mexico presents high levels of poverty and marginalization, it is the second happiest nation in Latin America. This raises several questions about what factors are associated with happiness at each level of marginalization and how these factors vary according to marginalization levels. We conducted a qualitative study in urban municipalities in four Mexican states, using 184 semi-structured interviews and employing a thematic analysis approach. Results suggest that happiness is a multifactorial phenomenon. Factors such as the family, health, religion, friendships, economic conditions, and fulfillment of basic needs contribute to happiness, but each of these aspects has different importance and meaning based on the level of marginalization. Evidence also shows that unhappiness is more homogeneous, regardless of the level of marginalization; thus, we can find people in both low marginalized and high-marginalized contexts that are unhappy. The research findings are relevant for the design of public policies, because they show various unsatisfied needs by level of marginalization and how not having them may affect happiness in each social stratum.


happiness, stratification, marginalization, thematic analysis, Mexico

Author Bio(s)

Oscar A. Martínez-Martínez, PhD, is a Professor at University Iberoamericana (Mexico). In 2014, he was a visiting professor at Boston College. He has coordinated several international research projects, the most recent is called “Measurement of Social Welfare in Mexico: a proposal for analysis in regions. He is a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and a member of the National System of Investigators. His research interests are social welfare, poverty and evaluation of public policies. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: oscar.martinez@ibero.mx.

Javier Reyes-Martínez is Ph.D. in Social Welfare at the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College. He has been a professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana as well as at the Loyola del Pacifico University. He is a specialist in culture and cultural management as well as a social activist in this area. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: srreyes@bc.edu.

Eder Noda is Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from the Universidad Iberoamericana. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: eder.noda@gmail.com.


Funding: This work was supported by the Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México. Department of Social and Political Sciences. Prolongación Paseo de la Reforma 880, Colonia Lomas de Santa Fe, Álvaro Obregón, Ciudad de México 01219, México This work was supported by the Research Institute for Development with Equity (EQUIDE) [Grant No. 0060 EQUIDE].

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