Working Paper
The legacy of Mexico’s Drug War on youth political attitudes

We investigate the impact of childhood exposure to organized criminal violence on sociopolitical attitudes in Mexico, where an entire generation of youths has been raised amid the country’s most violent conflict over the past century. We fielded an in-person survey to nearly 3,000 urban youths, measuring various sociopolitical attitudes such as trust in institutions, interpersonal trust, and vote choice.

To assess the impact of violence exposure on these attitudes, we construct measures of childhood exposure for each individual by matching them with historical trends in homicide rates and military confrontations from the municipality where they grew up.

Our findings indicate that exposure to both types of violence during the first ten years of life is associated with up to a 20 per cent decrease in reported interpersonal and political trust. We also find evidence of negative impacts on support for the political parties that ruled the country during that period.

These results have significant implications for the consolidation of Mexico’s young democracy. Understanding the long-term effects of exposure to violence during childhood is critical for designing effective policies to promote social and political stability, democratic norms, and social cohesion among the younger generation.