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Socio-economic conditions, young men and violence in Cape Town


  • Jeremy Seekings


  • Kai Thaler



People in violent neighbourhoods attribute violence in public spaces to, especially, poverty and unemployment, but agree that social disintegration, disrespect, drinking and drugs and the weaknesses of the criminal justice system also contribute substantially. However, data from a panel of young men in Cape Town provide little support for the hypothesis that unemployment and poverty are direct causes of violence against strangers. Growing up in a home where someone drank heavily or took drugs is, however, a strong predictor of violence against strangers in early adulthood. A history of drinking (or taking drugs) correlates with perpetration of violence, and might also serve as a mechanism through which conditions during childhood have indirect effects. Living in a bad neighbourhood and immediate poverty are associated with violence against strangers, but being unemployed is not. Overall, heavy drinking – whether by adults in the childhood home or by young men themselves – seems to be a more important predictor of violence than economic circumstances in childhood or the recent past. Heavy drinking seems to play an important part in explaining why some young men have been more violent than others in circumstances that seem to have been generally conducive to rising violence, for reasons that remain unclear. It seems likely that few young people in South Africa in the early 2000s come from backgrounds that strongly predispose them against the use of violence.

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  • Jeremy Seekings & Kai Thaler, 2011. "Socio-economic conditions, young men and violence in Cape Town," Research Working Papers 49, MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcn:rwpapr:49

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
    2. Demombynes, Gabriel & Ozler, Berk, 2005. "Crime and local inequality in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 265-292, April.
    3. Mohammad Zulfan Tadjoeddin & Syed Mansoob Murshed, 2007. "Socio-Economic Determinants of Everyday Violence in Indonesia: An Empirical Investigation of Javanese Districts, 1994—2003," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 44(6), pages 689-709, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. World Bank Group, 2015. "Toward Solutions for Youth Employment," World Bank Other Operational Studies 23261, The World Bank.

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