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

Research output: Working paper


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
Translated title of the contributionLa desigualdad, el crimen y el largo plazo : El legado de la esclavitud
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherBanco Interamericano de Desarrollo
Number of pages35
StatePublished - Apr 2017


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