Good Policy Can Lower Violent Crime: Evidence from Fixed Effects Estimation in a Cross-National Panel of Homicide Rates, 1980-97
Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 40, No. 6, pp. 619-640, 2003
43 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2003 Last revised: 5 Jul 2010
Date Written: July 5, 2010
This article provides empirical evidence that good governance and good economic policies can lower homicide rates. Violent crime is therefore not simply determined by modernization, population characteristics and cultural factors. This result follows from rigorous econometric testing of a cross-national panel of homicide data from up to 125 countries over the period 1980 to 1997. Contrary to most existing studies, which have applied ordinary least squares on data drawn from one time period only, we use a fixed-effects estimator with fully robust standard errors. A fixed-effects estimator elegantly controls for time-invariant determinants, such as cultural factors, and allows the pooling of homicide data from otherwise incompatible sources. Our results suggest that economic growth, higher income levels, respect for human rights and the abolition of the death penalty are all associated with lower homicide rates. The same is true for democracy at high levels of democracy. The transition from autocracy to democracy is likely to be accompanied by a rising homicide rate, however, until full democracy has been reached. We also find that policies aimed at improving equity have no effect on violent crime. Our results are strikingly similar to those found for the causes of civil war.
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