Why do Murder Rates Vary so Much Between Nations?

Earlier this year, my wife was invited to Brazil for a conference. When she said she would extend her trip to travel a bit, I was more than a little concerned by the prospect of her traveling alone in a country I associated with violence.

Travel Advisories from US and UK governments were not very cheery, but when we talked to friends who had been there, and mailed contacts in Brazil, the general consensus was, one needed to be careful, and aware of ‘No-Go’ areas.

Meanwhile I had looked at the numbers – Brazil has a homicide rate of almost 30 per 100,000 people per annum. India is just above 3. The global average is just above 6.

I can’t make sense of the numbers; the popular notion is that poverty, inequality and joblessnes bring violence.  Brazil and India have all three afflictions – both are poor, though India does worse in this regard; both are highly unequal, with Brazil worse off; jobs for the youth a common problem. Why does one nation have a homicide rate that is almost 10 times as high as the other?

I don’t have a clue, and welcome inputs. Global data suggests there is a geographical (and hence cultural) pattern. The Americas have a homicide rate of 16.3, with the Central American nation of El Salvador topping the charts at 80+. Africa comes next at 12.5. Europe, Oceania and South Asia, are all around 3, with some tiny nations like Liechtenstein and Nauru reporting zero homicides.




Liked this post? Get the good stuff once a week by email.