Mexico's nini population is linked to homicide rates

A new World Bank report states there is a correlation between homicide rates and the number of unemployed male youths during the apex of Mexico's drug war, a telling reminder that improving public security requires more than just criminal justice reform. 

The recently released report (pdf) examines the risks facing Latin America's "ninis," a term used to describe youth who are neither in school nor active in the work force. Using data from Mexico's national employment surveys, the study concludes that there is no correlation between the amount of ninis and homicide rates from 1995-2013.

But there is a positive and significant correlation, the study finds, between the rate of ninis and the number of murders between 2008 and 2013, when violence related to Mexico's drug war reached its peak. (See graph below) The correlation grows stronger when only Mexican border states are considered, the focal point for cartel violence in the late 2000s and early 2010s. 

SEE ALSO: Juarez After the War

16-01-20-Mexico-Ninis-Violence

InSight Crime Analysis

When discussing how to improve public security in Mexico -- and, indeed, the rest of Latin America -- the conversation tends to center on a few key topics, such as police reform and combating criminal groups. The World Bank study cautions against taking such a myopic approach to addressing patterns of violence.

"The report only reinforces what we already know, which is that violence is not a problem of law enforcement, it is a problem of opportunity," Viridiana Rios, a research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, told InSight Crime. 

The lack of opportunities driving violence can include, but is not necessarily limited to, a shortage of jobs. According to Rios, Mexico actually has a lower unemployment rate than the United States, Canada, and Spain. But the scholar suggests that the job opportunities for Mexico's poor do not carry the promise of economic mobility that ambitious young people seek. As a result, she says, assertive young people who find themselves at the lower end of the economic spectrum are more likely to turn to drug trafficking, where potential earnings are nearly limitless. 

"When you look at the profile of drug traffickers... they are ambitious young people that wouldn't take [just] any job," Rios said. "You need to offer them jobs that allow people to move up the social hierarchy. And that is what we are missing."

While it is the responsibility of the criminal justice system to provide public security, it is not the only government sector that plays a role. Carrying out educational reforms, for instance, so that more youths from Mexico's working class are well-positioned upon entering the work force would not only cause Mexico's nini population to drop, it could lead to less violence and crime. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...