Original Research

Economic inequality as a source of interpersonal violence: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa

Geoff Harris, Claire Vermaak
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 18, No 1 | a782 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v18i1.782 | © 2015 Geoff Harris, Claire Vermaak | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 November 2013 | Published: 04 March 2015

About the author(s)

Geoff Harris, Durban University of Technology, South Africa
Claire Vermaak, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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This article examines whether the close association of income inequality and violence identified for high income countries applies also to sub-Saharan Africa and, in particular, to South Africa. Cross sectional analysis across sub-Saharan countries provided no evidence of such an association. However, using homicide rates and several measures of inequality across South Africa’s 52 districts does provide evidence of a significant positive relationship between homicide rates and expenditure inequality. A one per cent increase in inequality is associated with an increase in the homicide rate of 2.3 to 2.5 per cent. This relationship remains significant after controlling for other characteristics of the district.


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