Is Inequality Really a Major Cause of Violent Crime? Evidence from a Cross-National Panel of Robbery and Violent Theft Rates
Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2005
22 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2004 Last revised: 22 Feb 2009
Date Written: August 1, 2004
This article argues that the link between income inequality and violent property crime might be spurious, complementing a similar argument in prior analysis by the author on the determinants of homicide. In contrast, Fajnzylber, Lederman & Loayza (1998; 2002a, b) provide seemingly strong and robust evidence that inequality causes a higher rate of both homicide and robbery/violent theft even after controlling for country-specific fixed effects. Our results suggest that inequality is not a statistically significant determinant, unless either country-specific effects are not controlled for or the sample is artificially restricted to a small number of countries. The reason why the link between inequality and violent property crime might be spurious is that income inequality is likely to be strongly correlated with country-specific fixed effects such as cultural differences. A high degree of inequality might be socially undesirable for any number of reasons, but that it causes violent crime is far from proven.
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