Youth and Organised Crime in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico: An exploration of contributing factors
Chavez Villegas, Cirenia
Clark, David Alexander
University of Cambridge
Centre of Development Studies / Department of Politics and International Studies
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Chavez Villegas, C. (2018). Youth and Organised Crime in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico: An exploration of contributing factors (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.20835
This research explores why young men participate in organised crime in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. From an ecological perspective, decisions are the result of a combination of factors at the macro, micro, and individual levels. The research explores factors at each of these levels, particularly the role of unfulfilled aspirations, the family and community environments, as well as different dimensions of poverty. In doing so, it uses an original survey covering a sample of 180 delinquent young men aged 12 to 29, who were in prison for organised criminal activity, and a sample of 180 non-delinquents with the same age, social background, and geographical origin in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Twenty in-depth interviews were also carried out with a sub-sample of delinquents. To my knowledge, this is the first study to use a quasi-experimental approach to understand why young men in Mexico participate in organised crime that considers their aspirations and measures multidimensional poverty amongst a population that is commonly excluded from census data. The thesis draws on several theoretical frameworks from the fields of criminology and sociology, including anomie and attachment theories. The findings lend support to the importance of aspirations at the individual level. Opportunity constraints predict criminal participation and delinquents tend to place greater value on material items than their non-delinquent counterparts, which calls for the co-creation and management of aspirations of former delinquents and at-risk youth with the aid of counsellors. In the family environment, being raised in a single parent household was a significant predictor of participation in organised crime. As these households are often headed by women, greater support for working mothers is pressing, as work in the assembly plants in Juárez (the prime source of employment) is not accompanied with childcare. More involved fathers who constitute positive role models are necessary to mitigate the risks of criminal participation. In the community environment, regularly spending time in a gang significantly predicted organised crime participation. Although gangs constitute a gateway, they do not unequivocally lead to organised crime. This calls for an adequate assessment of gangs, a phenomenon that is still poorly understood in Mexico. At the macro level, the findings reveal that those who are more income deprived have a lower probability of having participated in crime, suggesting that participation reduces income poverty marginally. However, a higher proportion of delinquent participants are vulnerable due to deprivation in several social indicators and most delinquent participants are still multidimensionally poor, despite their participation in organised crime. This indicates that participating in crime does not constitute an effective or sustained pathway out of poverty, a message that should be communicated to at-risk youth. A more robust poverty and inequality reduction program accompanied by fiscal reform and higher minimum wages are also among the key policy recommendations.
organised crime, youth, Mexico
CONACyT/Cambridge Trust provided funding for this PhD.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.20835