Understanding High Crime Rates in Latin America: The Role of Social and Policy Factors

Rodrigo R. Soares and Joana Naritomi

in The Economics of Crime

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780226153742
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226153766 | DOI:
Understanding High Crime Rates in Latin America: The Role of Social and Policy Factors

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This chapter presents a survey of the problem of crime in Latin America and takes a reductionist approach to analyze the determinants of the high crime levels, focusing on the negative social conditions in the region, including inequality and poverty, and poor policy design, such as relatively low police presence. For the authors, the crime rates are not high because a lot of the variation in crime rates in the region is accounted for by variation in what their model specifies as the causes of crime. Their estimates suggest that a large fraction of the high violence levels can be explained by three factors of high inequality, low incarceration rates, and small police forces. Although crime and violence in Latin America have a complicated origin, not all of them easily quantifiable, the economists' reductionist approach allows us to understand the broad trends that serve as context.

Keywords: crime; Latin America; reductionist approach; social conditions; inequality; poverty; crime rates; violence

Chapter.  16240 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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