top of page

Data: Assessing the danger to U.S. citizens in Mexico

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Out of the 2,865 homicides of U.S. citizens abroad in the U.S. State Department database, 1,328 happened in Mexico (46.4%). It may seem like a large number but consider that it is the largest destination for U.S. citizens. 1.6 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico and around 30 million more visit each year. Also, consider that 26,000 homicides occur in the U.S. every year.

Mexico is not becoming more dangerous for U.S. citizens

Based on homicide rates reported by the U.S. State Department (see Fig 1) Mexico does not appear to be getting more dangerous for U.S. citizens. The Homicide rate of U.S. citizens is actually trending down from a 2010/2011 peak. Partial data is available for 2022 (through June) indicating only 25 homicides of U.S. citizens in Mexico for the first half of 2022.

Fig 1. Annual homicides of U.S. citizens in Mexico 2003-2021

Chart by Away Clinic | Free to use with attribution

U.S. citizens in Mexico are safer than U.S. citizens in their home country

This can be calculated and checked using publicly available data.

  1. An estimated 1.6 million U.S. citizens live and work in Mexico. Approximately 30 million U.S. citizens visit Mexico each year. If we assume an average trip length of 7 days, that's about 570k U.S. citizens visiting Mexico on average year-round (30 million/52 weeks). That means the total number of U.S. citizens in Mexico at any time is about 2.2 million (1.6 million + 570k).

  2. The average homicide count of U.S. citizens in Mexico from 2003 to 2021 was 65.9. This is calculated using U.S. State Department data on U.S. citizen deaths abroad (the same that is used in the chart above).

  3. We can use the average number of U.S. citizens in Mexico (2.2 million) and the average annual homicide count of U.S. citizens in Mexico (65.9) to calculate the homicide rate, which is 3.0 per 100,000 (65.9/(2.2*10)).

The homicide rate in the U.S. is 6.5 per 100,000 according to UNODC which is about twice as high as what I've estimated for U.S. citizens in Mexico (3.0 per 100,000). So we see that U.S. citizens in Mexico are less likely to be killed than U.S. citizens in the U.S.

That this does not imply that every U.S. citizen is safer in Mexico than they are at home. Safety level depends on where you go and what you're doing while there. Moreover, not every American has the same exposure to potential homicide in the United States. Some neighborhoods are much more dangerous than others for example.

Mexico can be safe (it's up to you)

Mexico is generally safe for U.S. visitors and full-time residents. Rather than be deterred, U.S. citizens who want to go to Mexico should be informed. Learn what you need to do to stay safe while you're there.

Here are a few suggestions to make sure you have a good trip:

  1. Check with the U.S. State Department to find out which areas to avoid.

  2. Try to blend in--don't be too flashy; don't drive a fancy vehicle; don't disrespect the locals.

  3. Avoid the vices: excessive drink, drugs, prostitution, stealing, fighting, gambling, etc.

Lastly, consider that homicide is not even the biggest danger. Dying in an accident is much more likely.

About the data

Data used to determine homicide counts of U.S. citizens in Mexico was made available to the public by the U.S. State Department.

About the author

Aaron Charlton, PhD is a science and medical blogger and entrepreneur. He writes for Away Clinic and other medical clients. He also maintains a website called that is aimed at improving transparency and quality of scientific research within the field of marketing. He is sometimes quoted by the media on matters of scientific integrity.


bottom of page