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

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...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

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...

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...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

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...

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.

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 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...

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...