The Sources of Social Violence in Latin America: An Empirical Analysis of Homicide Rates, 1980-2010

Mauricio Rivera Celestino

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67 Citations (SciVal)


The study of social violence in Latin America has stood at the periphery of cross-national research despite the region being oneof the mostviolent in thecontemporary world. This article provides a comprehensive review of theories of crime and presents an empirical analysis of social violence in Latin America from 1980 to 2010. The literature often emphasizes one theoretical approach over others and existing explanations are seen as competitive rather than complementary. Yet, the empirical findings of this study support different explanations and illustrate how considering different theoretical approaches helps improve our knowledge on social violence phenomena. The results from different estimation methods reveal that youth bulges, female workforce, and post-conflict states are positively associated with social violence, as measured by homicide rates. The results also show that states’ efforts to strengthen judicial system capacity and increase school attendance can promote peace. Moreover, while drug producers and/ or transit countries are not systematically related to social violence, money-laundering countries experience higher homicide rates, suggesting that not all dimensions of drug-markets increase violence. Whereas Latin America as a whole has experienced few episodes of civil wars in the past decades, thefindings suggest that several factors affecting the onset of civil wars also influence other forms of non-political violence such as social violence. This echoes earlier calls in the literature on the necessity of bridging conflict and criminology research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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