Title: Structual Determinants of Violent Crime in in Contemporary Mexico
Name: Andrés Villarreal
avilla@prc.utexas.edu
Year: 2000
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary:

My dissertation seeks to explain differences in crime rates across Mexico as well as their relative change during the 1990s. I draw on ecological theories according to which the incidence of crime is related to the social characteristics of communities. However, I find it necessary to revise and extend these theories that have been developed largely based on the experience in U.S. urban areas. Not only do social variables commonly used in community-level studies of crime - such as poverty and ethnic composition - have a different meaning or require a different operationalization in the context of a developing country, but the Mexican case presents us with new ecological settings and new dimensions of social structure that have an effect on social control and crime. In the first part of the dissertation I analyze homicide rates in over 1,800 municipalities. I extend theories of human ecology to rural areas in order to explain the impact of different patterns of land ownership and structures of agricultural production on violence in the Mexican countryside. I contribute to theories that relate family structure and crime by considering the effect of extended family households. I estimate the influence of international factors such as the traffic of illegal drugs and migration to the United States. I developed a theory relating political change and violent crime that takes into account the hierarchical nature of social and political control in Mexico and tested it using results from municipal elections. In the second part of the dissertation I look more closely at crime in Mexico City. Using crime rates from a sample of over 800 neighborhoods and housing units I analyze how community characteristics such as the level of income, the housing structure and household composition affect the incidence of crime. I suggest a neighborhood transition process whereby the increase in commercial establishments in affluent neighborhoods leads to a loss of social control and the flight of high-income residents who can afford to do so. In the concluding chapter I place the recent changes in crime in Mexico in a broader historical perspective and compare existing patterns of crime to those of the advanced capitalist countries of the West.

Bibliography: Villarreal, Andrés. Political Competition and Violence in Mexico: Hierarchical Social Control in Local Patronage Structures. (2002) American Sociological Review 67, 4: 477-498.