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


  • Estimating the effect of inequality on crime is challenging due to reversecausality and omitted variable bias. This paper addresses these concernsby exploiting the fact that, as suggested by recent scholarly research, thelegacy of slavery is largely manifested in persistent levels of economicinequality. Municipality-level economic inequality in Colombia isinstrumented with a census-based measure of the proportion of slavesbefore the abolition of slavery in the nineteenth century. It is found thatinequality increases both property crime and violent crime. The estimatesare robust to including traditional determinants of crime (like populationdensity, proportion of young males, average education level, quality oflaw enforcement institutions, and overall economic activity), as well asgeographic characteristics that may be correlated with both the slaveeconomy and with crime, and current ethnic differences. Policies aimingat reducing structural crime should focus on reducing economicinequality.

publication date

  • 2017/4/1


  • Colombia
  • causality
  • census
  • determinants
  • economics
  • economy
  • education
  • law enforcement
  • municipality
  • nineteenth century
  • offense
  • population density
  • slave
  • slavery
  • trend
  • violent crime

number of pages

  • 35