Mexico: First efforts to produce official statistics on Internally Displaced Persons 

Drafted in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.


In 2019, the Mexican government officially recognized the existence of internal displacement in the country and made a commitment to comprehensively address it.[1] This key milestone has prompted efforts to produce reliable data on IDPs to build a coherent national response. These efforts are significant as the number of IDPs in Mexico has been unclear, even though the phenomenon has been documented since 1972. 

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), in partnership with other national bodies, has started to explore how to incorporate internal displacement into the national statistical system. In 2020, some IDPs fleeing violence or disaster were identified in the national Population and Housing Census.[2] More recently, INEGI, alongside central and local Government and civil society partners, has been working on a pilot survey to characterize the IDP population in Chihuahua State. 


2020 Population and housing census

The Population and Housing Census was successfully conducted in March 2020. Its module on migration was adjusted to capture data not only on the population born abroad (immigrants), but also on internal migration. The questions enabled the identification of people who had changed municipality of residence since March 2015, and subsequently asked about the cause of migration including violence or disaster[3]. Results showed that of the 6,888,490 migrants identified, 274,158 people had migrated due to violence or criminal insecurity (4%), while 24,742 did so due to natural disasters (0.4%)[4]. However, as the question does not capture the displacement in the same municipality and as the cause of migration question only allowed for one answer, these results likely under-estimate the scale of displacement.

Profiling survey in the state of Chihuahua

In parallel, INEGI has been working to understand the characteristics of internally displaced persons in prioritized regions of the country. The statistical office is currently leading a profiling exercise in Chihuahua state, together with the Ministry of Interior, the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH),  the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims of the State of Chihuahua (CEAVE), the Secretary of the interior of Chihuahua state (SGG), local civil society organizations (Alianza Sierra Madre, Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres, Consultoría Técnica Comunitaria, Instituto de Geografía para la paz, Colegio de la Frontera Norte), and UNHCR, with technical and coordination support from the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS).  As part of this exercise, INEGI implemented a survey which, although non-probabilistic, will produce sociodemographic data on IDPs to help understand their progress towards durable solutions.[5]

The process has been conceptually and technically challenging due to the fact that Chihuahua State hosts a mix of populations and migration flows, including IDPs who are highly dispersed and often mobile. Despite such challenges, the decision to prioritize the State of Chihuahua was facilitated by a strong leadership and political will from the local government.

The survey will provide data to inform policy interventions for IDPs living in Chihuahua. Analysis will cover the dynamics and patterns of displacement, the socioeconomic situation of IDPs, their living conditions, protection mechanisms, specific needs and vulnerabilities, as well as their capacities and future preferences with respect to residence. Results are expected in May 2022. It also serves as a pilot survey to explore how best data on IDPs can be captured in other regions of the country.

The use of the international recommendations

The 2020 Population and Housing Census, although designed when the IRIS had not yet been approved, corresponds to some extent to the international standards thanks to INEGI’s participation in the EGRISS. The census includes questions aimed at identifying the habitual place of residence of IDPs, the current/usual place of residence, as well as the cause of migration/displacement – all key topics recommended by the IRIS.

The IRIS was also integrated into the survey in Chihuahua, through definitions of the target population and place of usual residence. Importantly, the IRIS helped resolve discussions between partners in a context where the particularities of the international concept were not yet well delineated. 


“One of the lessons learned through the Chihuahua exercise is the importance of following international standards. The definitions and indicators suggested by the International Recommendations on Internally Displaced Persons Statistics informed the design of the survey questionnaire.”

Ms. Alejandra Ríos Cázares

Adjunct General Director of Development, Analysis and Indicator of Government, National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) of Mexico


Moreover, the selection of variables and indicators were informed by the Interagency Durable Solutions Indicator Library; a tool recommended by the IRIS. This will allow results to determine whether displacement-related vulnerabilities have been overcome.


Further to their individual value, the two initiatives presented here, namely the national 2020 Population and Housing Census and the profiling survey in Chihuahua, have prompted discussions on how best to include IDPs in the national statistical system. While the Chihuahua experience has been instrumental in translating the international recommendations into the local context and familiarizing national partners with the recommendations, replicating this approach nationally may not be feasible due to the differing dynamics of displacement in different regions. Conversely, the national census constitutes a notable first step in producing data on internal displacement, but limited space in the questionnaires constrains the ability to measure it comprehensively.

Despite these challenges, both examples reflect Mexico’s strong commitment to produce quality official statistics on IDPs. They also present important learning opportunities in a bid to strengthen the inclusion of IDPs in the national statistical system.