Publication | The Impact of Crime and Violence on Economic Sector Diversity

By Viridiana Rios, Mexico Institute Global Fellow
December 21, 2015, Harvard University


Literature has focused attention on identifying whether crime and violence impact growth via changes in economic factor accumulation, i.e. reducing labor supply or increasing capital costs. Yet, much little is known as to how crime and violence may affect how economic factors are allocated. Using a unique dataset created with a text-analysis algorithm of web content, this paper traces a decade of economic activity at the subnational level to show that increases in criminal presence and violent crime reduce economic diversification, increase sector concentration, and diminish economic complexity. An increase of 9.8% in the number of criminal organizations is enough to eliminate one economic sector. Similar effects can be felt if homicides rates increase by more than 22.5%, or if gang-related violence increases by 5.4%. By addressing the impact that crime has on the diversification of production factors, this paper takes current literature one step forward: It goes from exploring the effects of crime in the demand/supply of production factors, to analyzing its effects on economic composition.

Download the paper here.

Murder Rate Climbs In Mexico, Even As The Government Celebrates El Chapo’s Recapture

1/21/2016 The Huffington Post

Intentional homicides in Mexico rose nearly 8 percent last year to 18,650, reversing a steady decline in the number of killings that authorities had trumpeted as evidence of improving security.

The data, released Wednesday by Mexico’s Secretariat of the Executive, seemed to validate those who have doubted the progress of security under President Enrique Peña Nieto, who this month has been celebrating the recapture of famed drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera.

“2015 was not a good year,” former Mexican intelligence official Alejandro Hope said Thursday during a conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “At the current rate, there will be more homicides under Peña Nieto than under [previous President Felipe] Calderón.”

Read more…

This article mentions the Mexico Institute’s event “Mexico Security Review 2016: Assessing the Outlook for the Rule of Law.” Watch the video of the event here.

Mexico Violence Linked to Youth Unemployment: Report

1/25/2016 InSight Crime

InSightLogo_main_24bitA 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.

Read more…

Five Security Priorities for Mexico

1/27/2016 Viridiana Rios, The Expert Take

expert I (2)The Mexico Institute of The Wilson Center gathered a group of academics and experts on security issues, to discuss how Mexico’s security panorama has changed over the last year. The consensus is clear: Mexico’s violence issues are reviving. 

Homicides in Mexico increased by 11% during the last year, reversing the decline in violent crime that had started in 2012 (SNSP 2016). Mexico finished 2015 having about 46 homicides per day, 4 more than the 42 homicides per day that the country had in 2014. To put this number in perspective, from 2012 to 2014, on average, the total number of homicides has declined by about 2,400 every year, but in 2015 it increased by 1,360.

It is time for Mexico to take action. The last time that Mexico saw its homicide rate begin to tick up, rising from a low point in 2007, it took just three years for homicides to double (SNSP 2016). From 2007 to 2010, homicides increased from 10,253 to 20,680 in Mexico as a result of the fracture of large drug trafficking organizations into smaller rival ones. Mexico has still not fully recovered from such a spike in violence. The country is still 66% more violent than it was in 2007.

Read more…

EVENT TOMORROW! Follow-Up to the Investigations of the Disappearance of 43 Students in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico

the_week_that_was_from_latin_america_and_caribbean_40482081WHEN: TOMORROW, October 21, 2:00-3:00pm

WHERE: 6th Floor Board Room, Woodrow Wilson Center

Click here to RSVP.

In September 2014, a group of 43 students from a teachers college disappeared in the southern Mexican city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero. Their disappearance left Mexicans horrified and outraged, shocked the international community, and led to nationwide protests.

Through an agreement with the Mexican government and the families of the disappeared students, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights appointed a group of international experts to provide technical assistance to the Mexican government in its investigation of this case. In September 2015, the results of the six-month investigation became known to the public. The results have been controversial as some experts agreed with the investigation’s findings of major holes in the government’s case, while others criticized it for its shortcomings. The Mexican government responded to the report by stating that they would carry out a new investigation and a second opinion from other renowned experts to determine what happened the night the students were presumably killed.

Please join us for an event following up on the investigations of the disappearance and a discussion on the implications for U.S. cooperation with Mexico.


Under Secretary Roberto Campa
Under Secretary for Human Rights, Ministry of the Interior

Deputy Attorney General Eber Betanzos
Deputy Attorney General for Human Rights, Office of the Attorney General of the Republic

Under Secretary Miguel Ruiz Cabañas
Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Duncan Wood
Director, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center

Click here to RSVP.

UPCOMING OFFSITE EVENT: Investigating the Disappearance of the 43 Students in Mexico

the_week_that_was_from_latin_america_and_caribbean_40482081WHEN: Wednesday, October 21, 9:30am-11:00am

WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building 2255, Washington, DC 20515

Click here to RSVP.

The Office of Congressman Alan Lowenthal, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars are pleased to invite you to a briefing on:

Investigating the Disappearance of the 43 Students in Mexico

The September 26, 2014 enforced disappearance of 43 students in the southern Mexican city of Iguala profoundly shook Mexican society and shocked the international community. Massive street protests ensued, and the case was front-page news for months. However, more than a year later, much remains unknown about this case.

Through an agreement with the Mexican government and the families of the disappeared students, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the human rights body of the Organization of American States) appointed a group of international experts to provide technical assistance to the Mexican government in its investigation of this case. After six months of painstaking review of the case files and dozens of interviews with witnesses, victims, and the accused, the experts produced an extensive report that illustrated major holes in the government’s investigation of the case and provided recommendations for lines of investigation that need to be pursued as the case moves forward.

Please join us for a briefing on the work and report of the experts, including a discussion of the current status of the investigation and implications for U.S. cooperation with Mexico.

Featuring the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights-Appointed Group of Experts:

Claudia Paz y Paz (Guatemala)

Carlos Martín Beristain (Spain)

Angela Buitrago (Colombia)

Alejandro Valencia Villa (Colombia)

Moderated by
Eric Olson
Associate Director, Latin American Program, Wilson Center
Senior Advisor, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center

With opening remarks by
Congressman Alan Lowenthal

And closing remarks by
Maureen Meyer
Senior Associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights, WOLA

Rayburn House Office Building 2255
Washington, D.C. 20515

The event will be held in Spanish and English; simultaneous interpretation will be provided.

Click here to RSVP.

Book Event on Violence in Guerrero this upcoming Thursday!

WHEN: Oct 8th 4:00-5:30pm

WHERE: 5th Floor Conference Room, Wilson Center

Click here to RSVP.

The Mexico Institute and Politics and Prose are pleased to invite you to a talk by author Jennifer Clement on the writing of her book Prayers for the Stolen.

18007563A New York Times Book Review’s Editors Choice, Prayers for the Stolen has brought to light the scale of abduction of young girls into sex slavery in Mexico, particularly in Guerrero. Clement will be reading from and discussing Prayers for the Stolen, the result of ten years of research, which included interviews with women of drug traffickers, girls and women in rural communities and prisoners in Mexico City’s Santa Martha jail. An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of the drug war, Prayers for the Stolen is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination

Jennifer Clement is a leading chronicler of contemporary Mexico. Her work has been translated into 24 languages and has garnered international acclaim such as the New York Times Editor’s Choice, the NEA Fellowship for Literature, the UK’s Canongate Prize, France’s Gran Prix des Lectrices Lyceenes de ELLE, the PEN/Faulkner Prize shortlist, and the Sara Curry Humanitarian Award. Clement is a Santa Maddalena Fellow and member of Mexico’s prestigious “Sistema Nacional de Creadores”. As president of PEN Mexico, her work focused on the disappearance and killing of journalists.

Click here to RSVP.