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Inequality, Crime, and the Long-Run Legacy of Slavery

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  • Paolo Buonanno
  • Juan F. Vargas

Abstract

Estimating the effect of inequality on crime is challenging due to reverse causality and omitted variable bias. This paper addresses these concerns by exploiting the fact that, as suggested by recent scholarly research, the legacy of slavery is largely manifested in persistent levels of economic inequality. Municipality-level economic inequality in Colombia is instrumented with a census-based measure of the proportion of slaves before the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century. It is found that inequality increases both property crime and violent crime. The estimates are robust to including traditional determinants of crime (like population density, proportion of young males, average education level, quality of law enforcement institutions, and overall economic activity), as well as geographic characteristics that may be correlated with both the slave economy and with crime, and current ethnic differences. Policies aiming at reducing structural crime should focus on reducing economic inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Buonanno & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "Inequality, Crime, and the Long-Run Legacy of Slavery," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8248, Inter-American Development Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:brikps:8248
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jacques Mairesse & Michele Pezzoni, 2015. "Does Gender Affect Scientific Productivity ?. A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence and a Panel Data Econometric Analysis for French Physicists," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 66(1), pages 65-113.
    2. Gonzalez-Brambila, Claudia & Veloso, Francisco M., 2007. "The determinants of research output and impact: A study of Mexican researchers," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 1035-1051, September.
    3. Pezzoni, Michele & Sterzi, Valerio & Lissoni, Francesco, 2012. "Career progress in centralized academic systems: Social capital and institutions in France and Italy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 704-719.
    4. repec:spr:scient:v:93:y:2012:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-012-0712-y is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income Inequality; Slavery; Homicide; Crime Rate; Criminal Activities; violent crime;

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • C26 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Instrumental Variables (IV) Estimation

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