Graduate Program

Viridiana Rios

Viridiana Rios

PhD in Government

Specialty: Mexico's Politics and Economics; State-Level Policies

Biographical Note:

Viridiana Rios is CEO of México ¿Cómo Vamos? a Mexican think tank specialized in (a) linking the work of Mexican academics to policy makers and the press and (b) following economic indicators at the subnational level.  Rios is also  fellow at The Wilson Center, recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and writes a weekly column at Excelsior.


Her academic research was awarded 2014's American Political Science Award to the best doctoral dissertation wrote in the last two years, and Harvard's Merit Fellowship for Outstanding Research in 2011. She was also selected as one of the top 12 young experts and was profiled at Harvard Gazette as one of the 15 Harvard's stellar graduates of 2013. She regularly publishes her work and opinions about México as guest writer for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and political magazines like Nexos  


She was senior policy adviser to current Mexico's Minister of Finance and to former Mexican President's Spokesman. She also worked and researched at he Center for US-Mexico Studies (UCSD), the Trans-border Institute, the United NationsUSAIDThe World BankMexico's Security Council, and Mexico's Ministry of Social Development.  



Peer-Reviewed Papers:

Leads to Violence Against the Press in Mexico in Journal of Conflict Resolution (Forthcoming), with Holland
The presence of large criminal organizations does not  lead to violence against the press unles these are fighting each other.
How government coordination controlled organized crime in Journal of Conflict Resolution (2015) Mexico's organized crime has become increasingly violent and injurious due to a lack of coordiantion between different levels of governemnt.
Violence Causes Forced Migration in Mexico  in Latin American Research Review (2014) About 264,000 Mexicans migrated out of their communities fearing drug-related violence;  estimates by city
Politics and Violence in Indigenous Mexico in Latin American Politics and Society (2014); with Eisenstadt Ethnic-rights regime for electing local governments  increase violence in Mexico
Why Did Mexico Become so Violent?  inTrends in Organized Crime (2013) Drug-related violence increased because of law enforcement operations, and competition between drug cartels.
How and Where Mexican Criminal Organizations Operate in CKIM (2012; with  Coscia An algorithm that uses Google to track Mexican drug cartel and creates maps of criminal activity

Doctoral Dissertation:

Title: How government structure encourges criminal violence: The causes of Mexico's Drug War 

Abstract: Mexico's drug war was a war between criminal organizations, ignited by a state that enforced the law in a decentralized political environment.

Awared Prize to Best Public Administration Doctoral Dissertation by APSA (2014)

Book Chapters and University Press:

The Assasination of Journalits and Mayors in Mexico's Drug War (2012; in Spanish) Journalists and mayors are being assasinated the most in areas where drug cartels are battling for turf
Drug-related Violence in Mexico (2012; with Molzahn and Shirk) Trends of Mexico's Drug War through 2011; historical estimates of drug-related homicides (pg 22).
Drug-related Violence in Mexico (2011; with Shirk) Numbers, trends and events of Mexico's Drug War through 2010
Drug-related violence in Mexico, mid-year report, mid-year report (2010; with Duran-Martinez and Hazard) Number, trends and events of Mexico's Drug War June 2010

Other Articles:

Title: Published at: Abstract:
Four Rule of Law Policies to Make Mexico Grow Wilson Center, October 2013 The binding constratint to Mexico's grow is lack of rule of law
Marihuana: 6 Myths (Spanish) Nexos, October 2013 Legalizing marihuana in Mexico won't reduce violence, may increase consumption and will not affect the number of prisoners
Zeta Branding (Spanish) with Dudley Nexos Online, September 2013 Zetas criminal organization has cuttting-edge business techniques that had allowed them to conquer crime markets like no other Mexican cartel
What Sleeping at a Public Protest Taught Us (Spanish) Nexos, September 2013 Teachers camped at Mexico City's central square for three months, I joined them one night
Who is Killing Mexican Journalists? (Spanish) Nexos, August 2013 Not all traffickers kill journalists, only those that fight each other for turf and are new in the business
Who Started the Mexican Drug War? Kennedy School Review, 2013. Traffickers became violent before Mexico started prosecuting them, not because of prosecution
Why Mexico's Zetas Expanded Faster Than Their Rivals (with Dudley) InsightCrime, April 21, 2013 An study of Zetas' market strategy
What Google can tell us about drug cartels' modus operandi (Spanish) Nexos, December 2012 This is the story of how I tracked drug cartels using Google to discovere that criminals (a) share territories, (b) operate selectively and (c) spread out since 2004
Keys to reducing violence in Mexico Harvard Review of Latin America, Winter 2012 Reducing violence requires reforming Mexico's judicial system to develop targeted policies and promote civic engagement
Who becomes a drug dealer and why? (English version here) Este Pais Online, August 2009 Income, tastes and outside options determine who becomes a drug dealer in Mexico.Income, tastes and outside options determine who becomes a drug dealer in Mexico
Mexico's perception of  violence is media-driven (Spanish) Nexos, January 2011 Mexico is less violent than we think. Perceptions do not match reality because homicides are done to attract media attention.
Assassins on the 'Cheap' ISN, October 2010 Hired assassins are willing to work for suppressed wages because murder-for-hire has proven to be a gateway to more lucrative criminal activity.

Opinion Pieces:

Weekly Column at Excelsior (Mexican National Newspaper) Excelsior, Weekly from January 2014
How to Win the Mexican Drug War The Washington Post, April 12, 2013
Drug Legalization Could Create More Crime The New York Times, May 30, 2012
Doing the Math on Mexican Drug Wars The New York Times, January 25th, 2010
More journalist murdered in Mexico that in Iraq (English version here) Este País Online, February 1, 2010
Poverty and corruption have many ways to kill: Haiti is not a coincidence (English version here) Este País Online, January 15, 2010

My research at the press:

Harvard Gazzette: "Harvard´s stellar graduate"  
Fox News: "Harvard student tracks drug cartels" Foreign Policy: "Tracking Mexico's cartels with Google"
LA Times: "Mexico before and after Calderon's drug war" New Scientists: "Destroying drug cartels the mathematical way"
Univision: "Google news ayuda a localizar patrones del narco" El Universal: "Concentran 29% de los municipios actividad del narco"
Times of India: "Google used to track drug cartels" The Huffington Post: "The drug legalization debate"

Other Manuscripts: 

Using Google to track Mexican criminal organizations (with Coscia) Our algorithm reads all that has ever been published online and give us a profile of how different criminal organizations operate.
Why are Mexican mayors getting killed by traffickers? Corruption Dynamics in Mexico

The decentralization of corruption and rising competition between cartels have increased the probability of political violence againts Mexican politicians.

To be or not to be a drug trafficker: Modeling occupational choices of criminals The attractiveness of trafficking as a profession comes from the large variance of salaries within the market even if average salaries are low. 
The economic impact of Mexico's drug trafficking industry Mexico A cost-benefit analysis of drug trafficking operations within Mexico until 2006; cash flows, employment generation, the costs of drug abuse, and law enforcement are analyzed.


Email Address

Web Site

Viridiana Rios's Most Updated Website


Advanced Microeconomic TheoryApplied EconometricsAdvanced Quantitative MethodsAdvanced Quantitative ResearchMathematics for Social ScientistsGeographical Information SystemsSurvey DesignContract TheoryPolitics and EconomicsSocial EconomicsInequality and Social PolicyEconomic DevelopmentComparative PoliticsComparative Politics in LAPolitical Theory



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