MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Two million more Mexicans fell into poverty between 2012 and 2014, government data showed on Thursday, highlighting the challenges President Enrique Pena Nieto faces in meeting pledges to lift millions out of need.
The poverty rate increased by 0.7 percentage point to 46.2 percent last year from 45.5 percent in 2012, equivalent to 55.3 million people in the nation of nearly 120 million, said government social development agency Coneval.
The poverty level is roughly in line with that in 2010, suggesting that the modest economic growth of the last four years has not been enough to improve low-income people's circumstances.
The Coneval findings cover the first two years of Pena Nieto's six-year term. During his election campaign, he pledged to lift 15 million people out of poverty.
The figures also showed a 0.3 point drop in the rate of extreme poverty to 9.5 percent as government social programs supported those on the lowest rungs of the income scale, largely among the nation's indigenous population.
Coneval defines poverty as living on no more than 2,542 pesos ($157.70) a month in cities and 1,615 pesos in rural areas. The benchmark for extreme poverty was 1,243 pesos in cities and 868 pesos a month in the countryside. The agency also takes into account other factors like healthcare and education.
More of the poor moved to cities, continuing the trend of urban migration. The poverty rate declined to about 61 percent in rural areas but rose to 41.7 percent in urban areas.
Chiapas remained the poorest state out of 32 regions, including Mexico City, with its poverty rate rising to 76.2 percent last year. Oaxaca edged out Guerrero to become the second-poorest state, with a rate of 66.8 percent.
Both states are on the southern Pacific coast, traditionally the poorest parts of the country.
(Reporting by Anahi Rama and Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)