Fear and Loitering in Mexico: The Significance of Age Structure, Education, and Youth Unemployment for Explaining Sub-National Variation in Violent Youth Crime
40 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2017
Date Written: February 2013
Violent crime in Mexico occurs at a rate that dwarf the human costs of most contemporary civil wars, and the drug cartels responsible for the violence exercise de facto control over significant geographical territories. In this respect, the Mexican ‘drug wars’ resemble conflicts over the control of rich natural resources in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, blurring the distinction between ‘political’ and ‘social’ or ‘criminal’ violence. In the civil war literature, the ‘opportunity perspective’ emphasizes conditions that provide opportunities for a rebel group to wage war against a government. Similarly, relatively large groups of ‘idle’ young men could arguably be a factor that reduces recruitment costs for criminal enterprises through the abundant supply of youth with low opportunity cost. Acknowledging organized crime around drugs trafficking as a major cause of crime and violence in Mexico, we ask whether the availability of large young male cohorts, or male ‘youth bulges’, low education, and high youth unemployment eases recruitment to these organizations and may contribute to explain variance in violent crime across Mexican states over time. Using panel data covering 32 states in Mexico during the 1997–2010 period, we find that while a coarse measure of regional youth bulges does not explain patterns of violent youth crime, high youth unemployment in low-education strata does, and in particular in the context of large male youth bulges. These results remain robust to alternative data, sample size, estimation techniques and controls for potential endogeneity concerns.
Keywords: youth bulge, education, unemployment, violent crime, Mexico
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation