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

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

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...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

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. 

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.

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...