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Reassessing the Demography Hypothesis: the Great Brazilian Crime Shift

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  • João Manoel Pinho de Mello

    ()
    (Department of Economics PUC-Rio)

Abstract

Mimicking the US in 1980 and 1990s, Brazil is a remarkable case of a major shift in homicides. After increasing steadily throughout the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, homicides reached a peak in 2003, and then fell. I show a strong time-series co-movement between homicide rates and the percentage of the population in 15-24 age bracket. Using a panel of states, I find a very high elasticity of homicide with respect to changes in the 15-24 year-old population (2.4), after controlling for income, income inequality, and state and year fixed effects. I then focus on the case of São Paulo, the largest state in the country, and whose shift in homicides has been particularly acute. City-level panel elasticities are similar to the state-level estimates. Furthermore, the demographic shift in São Paulo was more pronounced than the national one, explaining the particularly large shift in homicides in São Paulo. The large cohort born from the mid 1970 through the early 1980 is the result of a sharp reduction in infant mortality only belatedly followed by acceleration in the reduction of fertility. In line with the Easterlin Hypothesis (Easterlin [1980]), this large cohort faced tough economic conditions. Educational attainment ceased to improve for this cohort, and unemployment rates upon entering the job market were exceptionally high. Thus, the large homicide shift in Brazil is produced by a particularly large and socially fragile cohort.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil) in its series Textos para discussão with number 579.

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Length: 48p
Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rio:texdis:579

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Keywords: Age Structure; Demographic Change; Homicides;

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  1. Gustavo Gonzaga & Naércio Menezes Filho & Maria Cristina Terra, 2005. "Trade liberalization and the evolution of skill earnings differentials in Brazil," Textos para discussão 503, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  2. Rodrigo R. Soares & Javier A. Birchenall, 2004. "Fertility and the Value of Life," 2004 Meeting Papers 232, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Ciro Biderman & João Manoel Pinho de Mello & Alexandre A Schneider, 2006. "Dry law and homicides: evidence from the São Paulo metropolitan area," Textos para discussão 518, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil), revised Oct 2008.
  4. Oded_Galor, 2004. "The Demographic Transition and the Emergence of Sustained Economic Growth," Working Papers 2004-13, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. João M. P. de Mello & Alexandre Schneider, 2010. "Assessing São Paulo's Large Drop in Homicides: The Role of Demography and Policy Interventions," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 207-235 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
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