Papers

Working Paper
Ríos V. Crime and violence effects on economic diversity. Working Paper.Abstract
This paper exploits a substantial increase in homicides created by a war between
drug trafficking organizations in Mexico to estimate the causal effects of crime and
violence in the diversity of local economies. Relying on a dataset of homicides
caused by organized criminal rivalry, a text-analysis algorithm that allowed us to
track activities of Mexico’s drug trafficking cartels, and an exceptionally detailed
economic census, we developed a panel fixed-effect model, and a model that controls
for the possible endogeneity using instrumental variables. Our identification shows
that subnational economies afflicted with large increases in crime and violence ex
perience reductions in the diversity of its production structure and increases their
degree of production concentration. Specifically, an increase of 10% in homicides
rates reduces the number of sectors that exists in an economy by 0.006 units. A
similar increase in the number of criminal organizations has a reduction effect of
0.032 units. Our results are robust by several specifications and various controls to
account for the potential endogeneity of violence.
 
In Preparation
Rios V. Violence, corruption and the redistributive preferences of business interests: Evidence from Mexico. In Preparation.Abstract

Although scholars typically viewed business interests as uniformly opposed to progressive taxation and social spending (Esping-Andersen 1985), researchers in recent decades have increasingly documented systematic variation in business attitudes on social policy (Hall and Soskice 2001, Swenson 2002, Mares 2003, Paster 2013). We use evidence from a survey experiment of firm managers and capital investors to understand how two prominent facets of politics in the developing world (corruption and violence) may be influencing business attitudes toward taxation and social spending. Data will be collected from a convenience sample of members of one of Mexico's largest business association. The association has over 14,000 member companies, employs 4.8 million workers, and is responsible for roughly 30% of the country's GDP.

riosvhollandb_experimentpap.pdf
Submitted
Headworth S, Rios V. Unequal enforcement: How ethnicity and race affect welfare agencies' responses. Submitted.Abstract

 

While numerous studies have revealed systematic inequalities in government-individual relationships and access to state services and resources (Ayres and Siegelman 1995, Butler and Broockman 2011, Doleac and Stein 2013, Giulietti and Vlassopoulos 2015, Milkman et al. 2014, Turner et al. 2013, White et al. 2015), others have found less evidence of racial/ethnic discrimination in access to government programs for the poor (Einstein and Glick 2017). The present study tests for discrimination in online systems for public reporting of suspected fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), examining the effects of being perceived as Latino/immigrant. To do it, we developed a field experiment to test if public assistance fraud control entities respond to public fraud reports differently when those reports are raised by persons who are ostensibly Latina, and ostensibly non-native English speakers. The results shed new light on questions of between-group differences in access to state agencies.

 

headworthrios_pap.pdf
Ríos V, Espejel O. Corruption type and income inequality in Latin America. Submitted.Abstract

This paper contributes to understanding an unresolved schism between scholars who have observed that inequality increases as corruption increases and those who have found the opposite. We show that identifying different types of corruption matter in this debate. When corruption takes the form of individual-level bribery, it is related to lower inequality because it allows informal markets to survive. Yet, when corruption takes the form of bribery at the firm-level, it may be related to higher income inequality by promoting the existence of less competitive markets. Using panel-suitable Bayesian estimates of corruption and measures of experienced corruption, we find that corruption at the individual-level is related to an increase in the share of income held by the bottom 20%. Meanwhile, firm-level corruption is related to a higher share of income held by the top 10%. Furthermore, large informal markets enhance the negative relationship between individual-level corruption and inequality while higher favouritism by authorities when assigning public funds enlarges the positive relationship between firm-level corruption and inequality. We provide case studies of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico to further solidify our empirical findings. Our results indicate a pressing need to develop a more precise picture of how corruption and inequality interact.

Phillips B, Ríos V. Criminal groups speak out: Information provision and competition among Mexico’s drug cartels. Latin American Politics and Society. Submitted.Abstract
Prominent scholarship suggests that criminal groups generally avoid the
limelight, shunning publicity. However, in some instances these organizations overtly
communicate, such as through banners or signs. We explain the competition dynamics
behind public criminal communication, and provide theory and evidence of the conditions
under which it emerges. Relying on a new data set of approximately 1,800 banners publicly
deployed by Mexican drug cartels from 2007 to 2010, we identify the conditions under
which they decide to communicate overtly with rivals, the government, or the public. The
findings show that criminal groups “go public” in the presence of interorganizational
contestation, violence from authorities, antagonism toward the local media, local demand
for drugs, and local drug production. Interestingly, we find that the correlates of criminal
propaganda are sometimes distinct from those of criminal violence, suggesting that these
phenomena are explained by separate dynamics.
Forthcoming
Ríos V, Ivaschenko O, Doyle J. Cash transfers’ effect on government support: The case of Fiji. Forthcoming.Abstract

While some scholars have found that post-disaster government assistance benefits the incumbent, others have shown that incumbent effects are imperceptible or negative. This article contributes to this debate by using a regression discontinuity design of households affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji, to show that the type of assistance provided is an important variable to understand the effects of aid on government support. Fijians receiving a post-disaster cash transfer are up to 20 percent more likely to be “very satisfied” with the government as opposed to those that did not. The probability further increases if the CT is provided along with in-kind benefits or vouchers but is not affected if citizens are also encouraged to use their own pension savings. This paper provides evidence in favor of an “attentive” citizen, capable of identifying government responses, and of possible effects of elite capture on the relationship between government and citizens.

 

Ríos V, Ferguson C. News Media Coverage of Crime and Violent Drug Crime: A Case for Cause of Catalyst?. Forthcoming.Abstract

 

Evidence about the relationship between exposure to media violence and criminal activity remains mixed. While some scholars argue that exposure to violent media content "triggers" crime and aggression, others contend that media may influence crime, but only as a source of information about techniques and styles, not as a motivation for crime. This debate has critical implications for criminal justice academics as calls for policy are regularly made on the basis of research in this area. This article contributes to this literature by presenting detailed empirical evidence of how media coverage of violent crimes affects homicides perpetrated by drug traffickers at Mexico, and their crime style. With an empirical model that addresses possible bidirectionalities between drug homicides and media coverage, we tracked 32,199 homicides, their stylistic characteristics, and their coverage by the press. Our results show that when media covers drug homicides it influences the probability that other criminals use similar styles of crimes, but it does not change overall rates of homicidal activity. This is evidence against the "trigger" hypothesis, and in favor of “copycat” effects.

 

riosferguson2018_justicequarterly.pdf
2018
Rios V, Rivera J. Media effects on brutality displays: The case of Mexico's drug war. Politics, Groups and Identities. 2018;7.Abstract

This paper presents preliminary empirical evidence to show that media attention may influence public displays of brutality by Mexican drug cartels. We defined public displays of brutality as the presence of banners paired with corpses or dismembered bodies at unconcealed crime scenes. Using a data set of 857 such instances, we estimated reaction functions to determine whether public displays of brutality became more frequent when drug cartel violence was covered more by the press. Our estimates show that public displays of brutality increase in a statistically significant way during the month following media coverage of similar crimes. We attribute this effect to changes in criminal strategy: increased brutality may be a way for criminals to more effectively deliver intimidating messages to their enemies. Whether increased displays of brutality also amount to increased crime rates, rather than merely increased visibility, is a question that remains to be studied.

riosrivera.pdf
Ríos V. The role of drug-related violence and extortion in promoting Mexican migration. Handbook of Latin American Politics. 2018;73.Abstract
Mexican immigration figures have reached their lowest point since 2000. Yet, even if as a whole the United States is receiving fewer Mexican migrants, the opposite is true for cities at the border. In this article, I present evidence to show that this sui generis migration pattern cannot be understood using traditional explanations of migration dynamics. Instead, Mexicans are migrating because of security issues, in fear of drug-related violence and extortion that has spiked since 2008. I provide the first estimate of this migration pattern, showing that 264,692 Mexicans have migrated in fear of organized crime activities. In doing so, I combine the literature on migration dynamics with that on violence and crime, pointing toward ways in which nonstate actors shape actions of state members.
riosv2014_larr2014_securityimmigration1.pdf
2017
Ríos V, Holland B. How criminal rivalry leads to violence against the press. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 2017 :1-25.Abstract

A well-functioning press is crucial for sustaining a healthy democracy. While attacks on
journalists occur regularly in many developing countries, previous work has largely
ignored where and why journalists are attacked. Focusing on violence by criminal
organizations (COs) in Mexico, we offer the first systematic, micro-level analysis of the
conditions under which journalists are more likely to be violently targeted. Contrary
to popular belief, our evidence reveals that the presence of large, profitable COs does
not necessarily lead to fatal attacks against the press. Rather, the likelihood of journalists
being killed only increases when rival criminal groups inhabit territories. Rivalry
inhibits COs’ ability to control information leaks to the press, instead creating
incentives for such leaks to be used as weapons to intensify official enforcement
operations against rivals. Without the capacity to informally govern press content,
rival criminals affected by such press coverage are more likely to target journalists.

hollandrios_jcr2015final_1.pdf
2015
Ríos V. How government coordination controlled organized crime. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 2015;59 (8) :1433-1454.Abstract

This article provides empirical evidence showing that when a multilevel government is well coordinated, organized crime can be more effectively controlled. Using a time-variant data set of Mexico’s cocaine markets at the subnational level and Cox proportional-hazards regressions, I show that when Mexico’s democratization decreased the probability of government coordination—the same party governing a municipality at every level of government—drug traffickers were more likely to violate the long-standing informal prohibition on selling cocaine within the country. It was this decrease in government coordination that would set the conditions for a violent war between drug cartels to erupt in the mid-2000s.

jcr587052.pdf
2014
Ríos V, Eisenstadt T. Multicultural institutions, distributional politics and postelectoral mobilization. Latin Americal Politics and Society. 2014;56 (2) :70-92.Abstract

Contrary to the predictions of “power sharing” to mitigate ethnic conflicts, multicultural rights recognition can actually increase the frequency of local postelectoral mobilizations. This article demonstrates that the adoption of an ethnic rights regime for electing local government representatives may actually increase conflict if these multicultural laws are not carefully circumscribed to avoid violating human rights. Focusing on the 1995 multicultural rights reforms in Oaxaca, it presents evidence that legal changes purportedly implemented to recognize indigenous rights actually increased postelectoral disputes due to conflicts between county seat communities and peripheral population hamlets over access to funding by the central government. Based on this finding, the article addresses normative implications of “power-sharing” multiculturalism, recommending that multicultural laws be implemented only together with legal mechanisms to solve postelectoral disputes.

eisenstadtrios2014_multicultural.pdf
Ríos V. The role of drug-related violence and extortion in promoting Mexican migration. Latin American Research Review. 2014;49 (3) :199-217.Abstract

Mexican immigration figures have reached their lowest point since 2000. Yet, even if as a whole the United States is receiving fewer Mexican migrants, the opposite is true for cities at the border. In this article, I present evidence to show that this sui generis migration pattern cannot be understood using traditional explanations of migration dynamics. Instead, Mexicans are migrating because of security issues, in fear of drug-related violence and extortion that has spiked since 2008. I provide the first estimate of this migration pattern, showing that 264,692 Mexicans have migrated in fear of organized crime activities. In doing so, I combine the literature on migration dynamics with that on violence and crime, pointing toward ways in which nonstate actors shape actions of state members.

riosv2014_larr2014_securityimmigration1.pdf
2013
Rios V. Why did Mexico become so violent? A self-reinforcing violent equilibrium caused by competition and enforcement. Trends in Organized Crime. 2013;16 (2) :138-155.Abstract

 

This article explains why homicides related to drug-trafficking operations in Mexico have recently increased by exploring the mechanisms through which this type of violence tends to escalate. It is shown that drug-related violence can be understood as the result of two factors: (a) homicides caused by traffickers battling to take control of a competitive market, and (b) casualties and arrests generated by law enforcement operations against traffickers. Both sources of violence interact causing Mexico to be locked into a “self-reinforcing violent equilibrium” in which incremental increases in traffickers’ confrontations raise the incentives of the government to prosecute traffickers which promote further confrontations with traffickers when, as a result of the detention of drug lords, the remnants of the criminal organization fight each other in successive battles. This article presents quantitative evidence and case studies to assess the importance of the two mechanisms. It uses a unique dataset of recorded communications between drug traffickers and statistics on drug-related homicides.

 

rios2013_trendsorgcrime.pdf
2012
Ríos V, Coscia M. Knowing where and how criminal organizations operate using google. CIKM. 2012;12 :1412-1421.Abstract

We develop a framework that uses Web content to obtain quantitative information about a phenomenon that would otherwise require the operation of large scale, expensive intelligence exercises. Exploiting indexed reliable sources such as online newspapers and blogs, we use unambiguous query terms to characterize a complex evolving phenomena and solve a security policy problem: identifying the areas of operation and modus operandi of criminal organizations, in particular, Mexican drug tracking organizations over the last two decades. We validate our methodology by comparing information that is known with certainty with the one we extracted using our framework. We show that our framework is able to use information available on the web to efficiently extract implicit knowledge about criminal organizations. In the scenario of Mexican drug tracking, our findings provide evidence that criminal organizations are more strategic and operate in more differentiated ways than current academic literature thought.

cosciarios2012_wherehowcriminalsoperate.pdf cosciarios2012_database.csv