Murder and Development – what's the link?

homicide rates“There are many reasons why people kill each other and multiple driving forces often interact when they do, but homicide levels and trends indicate that the link between homicide and development is one of the clearest. Higher levels of homicide are associated with low human and economic development.

The largest shares of homicides occur in countries with low levels of human development, and countries with high levels of income inequality are afflicted by homicide rates almost four times higher than more equal societies.

Homicide and property crime were affected by the global financial crisis of 2008/2009, with increases in homicides coinciding with drops in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and rises in the Consumer Price index (CPI) in a sample of countries affected by the crisis. Likewise, levels of economic performance also have an affect on homicide.

Homicide rates in South America, for example, have decreased during periods of economic growth in the last 15 years. Homicide trends also followed the economic fluctuations in many of the countries that once formed part of the Soviet Union, by increasing when GDP dropped in the aftermath of its break up, before decreasing once their economies had recovered.

Long-term, sustainable economic and social development also requires governance based on the rule of law. Indeed, in all countries where there has been a strengthening of the rule of law in the last 15 years there has also been a decline in the homicide rate, while most countries where homicide has increased have a relatively weak rule of law.”

From the UN’s 2011 Global Study on Homicide

Other bits: 

Globally, the total number of homicides in 2010 was 468,000. More than a third (36 per cent) of those are estimated to have occurred in Africa, 31 per cent in the Americas, 27 per cent in Asia, 5 per cent in Europe and 1 per cent in Oceania.

Women may make up the majority of victims of intimate partner/family-related homicide, but the bigger picture reveals that men are most often involved in homicide in general, accounting for some 80 per cent of homicide victims and perpetrators.

Southern Africa and Central America, South America and the Caribbean have considerably higher homicide rates than other subregions, while, at the opposite end of the scale, Western, Northern and Southern Europe, and Eastern Asia have the lowest homicide rates.

And the most lethal countries in the world are (in descending order) St Kitts and Nevis (eh?), Guatemala and Honduras, with 85, 84 and 83 murders per 100,000 people respectively. Great, now I’m really looking forward to my trip to Guatemala next month.

[h/t Ed Cairns]

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3 Responses to “Murder and Development – what's the link?”
  1. Nicholas Colloff

    One feature of homicide that you do not mention (and may reassurre you about visiting Guatemala) is that most people are killed by people they know or at least have a social connection to or because they themselves are engaged (or perceived to be engaged) in criminal activity (drugs being the obvious example)- thus gang member kills member of competing gang, wife kills husband (or more usually vice versa).

    So as long as you do not antagonise your Oxfam colleagues or engage in a little illicit moonlighting activity, you should be safe.

    Though I remember Guatemala as unnerving as people talked of crime as English people might of house prices: ubiquitous stories widely shared.

    Duncan: thanks for the attempted reassurance Nicholas. Brazil’s the same – the middle class swap stories about abductions, being locked in car boots by kidnappers etc, just like the Brits endlessly discuss the weather. Wish I’d had that advice about not antagonising colleagues – too late now.

  2. Sara

    Greetings from Honduras. I am honduran and I feel kind of ashamed for holding this position in homicide rates. It is true what Mr. Nicholas Colloff says, that it depends on the circles you move in, definitely.
    I just wanted to let you know that there are some of us down here who, instead of being afraid, view this as room for improvement and are working to change things. It is difficult, some people think it is just about increasing security and a better police force. I believe this is useless unless you are also working on the roots and causes of these reactions. Education and moral values play an important role in society’s development, and should also be strongly targeted when trying to achieve economic growth and decrease homicide rates.
    I’m committed to help change the situation in my country. I’m young and I’m not hopeless!

    Duncan: Thanks Sara, great comment
    I’m sure you will enjoy your trip to Guatemala.

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