Violence and socioeconomic conditions in Cape Town
There is considerable debate over the causes of violence around the world, one which goes beyond the analysis of conflict to consider the dynamics of community behavior and the importance of economic and behavioral factors. One of the most interesting countries to study is South Africa, where violence seems to have increased rather than declined since democratization. South Africa competes with Colombia, Venezuela, and a number of Central American countries for the unwelcome distinction of having among the world’s highest homicide rates, and high prevalence of other forms of violence, including domestic and sexual violence, are also appallingly prevalent. This article presents an analysis of data from a panel of young men in Cape Town. It provides little support for the hypothesis that unemployment and poverty are direct causes of violence against strangers. The impact of drinking (or taking drugs) by adults in the home or by the young men themselves, living in a bad neighborhood, and immediate poverty are associated with violence against strangers, but being unemployed is not. This suggests that few young people in South Africa in the early 2000s come from backgrounds that strongly predispose them against the use of violence. [JEL codes: D74, O55]
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