IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Reassessing the Demography Hypothesis: the Great Brazilian Crime Shift


  • João Manoel Pinho de Mello

    () (Department of Economics PUC-Rio)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • João Manoel Pinho de Mello, 2010. "Reassessing the Demography Hypothesis: the Great Brazilian Crime Shift," Textos para discussão 579, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  • Handle: RePEc:rio:texdis:579

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gonzaga, Gustavo & Menezes Filho, Naercio & Terra, Cristina, 2006. "Trade liberalization and the evolution of skill earnings differentials in Brazil," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 345-367, March.
    2. Oded Galor, 2005. "The Demographic Transition and the Emergence of Sustained Economic Growth," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 494-504, 04/05.
    3. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    4. 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.
    5. Rodrigo R. Soares & Javier A. Birchenall, 2004. "Fertility and the Value of Life," 2004 Meeting Papers 232, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Ciro Biderman & JoãoMP DeMello & Alexandre Schneider, 2010. "Dry Laws and Homicides: Evidence from the São Paulo Metropolitan Area," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(543), pages 157-182, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Age Structure; Demographic Change; Homicides;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:rio:texdis:579. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.