Jóvenes/ Youth / Jovens, Violencia/Violence/Violência

Young homicide victims in Mexico

Written by: Lucia Carmina Jasso López. Institute of Social Research. National Autonomous University of Mexico

#Murder #Violence #Youth

Murder “due to its absolute gravity […] is one of the crimes that is most scrupulously recorded, and the homicides data is considered to be some of the most representative and comparable crime indicators” (UNODC, 2019: 15). In Mexico, there are mainly two official sources that provides information about murder statistics at national, state and municipal levels: the crime incidence statistics of the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System (acronym in Spanish: SESNSP)[1] and the Mortality Statistics of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (acronym in Spanish: INEGI).

The Mortality Statistics of the INEGI quantify deaths by murder from the information collected from “the Civil Registry Offices (certificates and death certificates), in the Public Ministry Agencies (death statistics books) and in the Services Forensic Medicine Services (death certificate)”. According to INEGI, the death certificate is “the main instrument of collection, which contains the causes that led to the death of a person” (INEGI, 2020) and from them, murder are classified.

This investigation will analyze the prime features of young murder victims recorded by the Mexican s Mortality Statistics. The study includes the population between 15 and 29 years old[1]. In order to contextualize the analysis, the results of the 2020 Population and Housing Census are studied, particularly those corresponding to the target population. The INEGI Mortality Statistics are analyzed, allow us to study particular characteristics of young murder victims in Mexico.  With the statistical data obtained we were be able to disaggregate the information into different categories such as:  age, nationality, occupation, modus operandi, place and time of occurrence, among others, all of which are fundamental for the understanding of the social phenomenon.

For the Mexicans population and housing census, in 2020 there were 31.211.786 young people registered between the ages of 15 and 29 years old, representing 24.7% of the total population. That means that by 2020, on average 1 of 4 Mexicans was in this age range (INEGI, 2020). In thirteen federative states, the percentage of the young population is higher than the national average, standing out with Quintana Roo[2], whose population between the ages of 15 and 29 years old is 26.7%.  In contrast, Mexico City, paradoxically[3]  is the one that registers the lowest percentage of young people with 23.0%.

Among the characteristics of the young people in Mexico it could be observed: are the following ones: 

– More than 15% of young people have migrated. 14.1% came from another federative state, 0.8% came from the United States of America and 0.3% from other countries.          

– The main cause of migration is to reunite with relatives, and the second is to look for a job. But there are also migrations due to “criminal insecurity or violence”[4]   

– 39.5% of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 have completed basic education, while 36.9% have completed upper secondary education, and 22.3% have had access to higher education. But 1% don´t have scholarship.          

– 1.773.851 young people speak native language in Mexico and 93.6% of this population group also speaks Spanish.         

Regarding young murder victims in Mexico, it is observed that since 2014 an increasing trend is registered, and in 2019 – the last year recorded – there were 13,602 deaths due to murder of young people, the highest figure that has been registered in the history of Mexico. It´s quadruplicates the value registered in 2007, which was the lowest national level.

Considering only the last ten years, from 2010 to 2019 there are more than 100.000 murders of young people. 

Graph 1. Deaths by murder of young people 1990-2019

              From: INEGI, Mortality Statistics.

In 2019, 36.661 deaths by murder at the national level were registered, of which 13.602 (37.1%) were young people between 15 and 29 years old. As can be seen in the graph, 461 death per murder were registered between the ages of 0 to 14, but from the age of 15 the number is multiplied. On average 1 of 5 deaths in the young population are of people between 15 and 19 years old, which means that in younger ager, homicidal violence is lower than in young people over 20 years of age.

The age group in which the highest number of deaths by murder is registered is between 25 and 29 years old. Of the total murders registered at the national level, 1 form 6 (16.2%) falls into this age group.

Graph 2. Deaths by murder by age group 2019

From: INEGI, Mortality Statistics.

By gender, the numbers show that from the young murder victims, 88.6% are men and 11.4% are women. It means that most of them are men. However, in 16 federative states, the percentage of women is higher than the one registered at the national level, stranded out by Baja California Sur with 20% and Tlaxcala with 18.8%.

Graph 3. Deaths by murder of young people by gender 2019

From: INEGI, Mortality Statistics

The federative states with the lowest percentage of young women who died from murder are: Quintana Roo, Guerrero, Michoacán de Ocampo and Sinaloa. Yucatán is particularly highlighted because, according to the INEGI Mortality Statistics, in 2019 it did not register any young women death by murder.

Analyzing the information about young murder victims in the federative states, it can be observed that Guanajuato is the one where the highest number was registered, followed by Chihuahua, the State of Mexico, Jalisco and Michoacán. The 42.7% of deaths by murder of young people are concentrated in these five federative states.

Regarding urban and rural cities, it stands out that 11.179 (82.2%) deaths of young people occurred in urban places with more than 2.500 habitants. This high percentage could be associated with population concentration in cities but it´s also relevant that the deaths of young people by murder are slightly more frequent in urban localities where 37.9% of murders are of people between 15 and 29 years old.

Looking for the places of occurrence of murders of young people, it is observed that 7.043 (51.8%) took place on street or public place and 826 (6.1%) at home. And 8.7% happened in the Health Secretary (HS) and in other public and private health institutions.

Street or public places are the main places of occurrence of young murder victims, and on this aspect, is important to note that the three different age groups analyzed have a similar percentage (between 51.7% and 52.2%). The same happens with murders inside a home, but here the average varies from 5.3% for people between 15 and 19 years old and 6.5% for people from 25 to 29 years old, which means, that as the age increase, the number of murders inside a home increases too.

In addition, is relevant to note that 1 in 10 young murder victims lacks a proper place of occurrence registration. It´s important to consider that there is a lack of information in hundreds of cases of young people deaths.

The hand hour of murder is also registered by Mortality Statistics. In young people, the highest number of murders happened at night, between 20hs and 1hs. In that time range 4.673 were registered and represents the 34,4%, that means that one of three young people died in that time range.

Graph 4. Deaths by murder in young people by hour of occurrence, 2019

From: INEGI, Mortality Statistics.

In 2019, midnight hour (00 hrs.) was the time in which most deaths were registered, reaching 1092 death at the mention time. As can be seen, the highest probability of death by murder for young people in Mexico is during night hours.

As to the places and hours of occurrence, it´s detach that 2,606 deaths by murder on street happened between 8:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. In other words, 37% of murder on street took place around midnight.

Also Mortality Statistics shows socioeconomic information that allows us to know the profile of the deceased. These data include scholarship, nationality, whether they are native language speakers or not, occupation, and others.

Regarding education level, it´s foreground that 42.4% of young people who were victims of murder had high school studies, 19.9% ​​had bachelor’s degree and 5.8% had professional studies. The 2% of young people who died from murder had not formal education. In total, there are 267 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 who hadn´t attended school. This is a relevant percentage, because at the national level 1% of young people between 15 and 29 years old didn´t go to school, that means that those who have been victims of murder had less access to school.

About nationality, the 94.4% of young murder victims are Mexicans and only 1.7% are foreigners. In total, during 2019, there were 230 young foreigners victims of murder in Mexico.

Regarding the condition of native language speaking, it can be seen that from the total number of young people death by murder, 320 were native language speakers, which represents 2.4%. This percentage is relevant due to the vulnerability condition represented by being native and young into the group of cases analyzed here.

About the occupation the results show that 10.025 of young people had a job when they were murder, and this represents 73.7%. The percentage of people who had a job increases as the age increase. However, 1.400 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 were working when they were victims of murder, representing the 57.1% of the total. This is relevant because the people into this age range could be dedicated to study in secondary education, high school and even higher education.

Undoubtedly, each case of young victims of murder represents a life story that have different impacts into society. The previous pages where only a review of the statistics related to this topic, which allows us to approach the data on this social phenomenon that has a high impact on society. But deeper studies are necessary on this subject, which further to help up to understand this phenomenon, provides inputs for its prevention

[1] In different Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, among others, the age range of youth is considered betrween15 and 29 years old (Krauskopf, 2015), and in Mexico, the Mexican Institute of Youth (MIY), refers that youth is form 12 to 29 years old.

[2] The concentration of the largest young population in Quintana Roo could be related to the tourist dynamics provided by services industry that may attract them particularly the ones that are looking for job opportunities.

[3] Related to the urban context, is important to remark that in urban cities  which have more than 2500 people, there are lightly more Young people tan in cities up to 2499 people or less. That means that, Mexico City shows an opposite trend to the national one.

[4] In 2020, the Mexicans population and housing census reports that  “criminal insecurity or violence” affected 69.284 young people, of which 23.439 were from 15 to 19 years old, 20.802 between 20 to 24 years old and 25.043 between 25 and 29 years old.


INEGI (2020). Mortality Statistics. Last update: October 29, 2020. Mexico: INEGI

INEGI (2020). Mexicans population and housing census 2020. Mexico: INEGI

IMJ UVE (2019). What is being young? Viewed at: imjuve.gob.mx

Krauskopf, D. (2015). Markers of Youth: The Complexity of Ages. Last decade, 23 (42), 115-128.

SESNSP. Criminal incidence. Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System. Viewed at: https://www.gob.mx/sesnsp/acciones-y-programas/incidencia-delictiva-87005

UNODC (2019). Global Study on Murder 2019. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Vienna


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