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SNAPSHOT: Violence and Inequality

Rates of violence vary from place to place. Margret Valdimarsdottir, a doctoral candidate in criminal justice at The Graduate Center and at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, sought to understand the impact of gender inequality and income inequality on homicide rates. Her study, using data from 127 countries, was published in the Icelandic Review of Politics and Administration (Stjórnmál & stjórnsýsla).

“Economically stratified societies tend to be male-dominated,” Valdimarsdottir wrote, with not just “higher rates of violence” but also “high male mortality rates related to risky behavior, such as accidents and alcohol and drug abuse.” But while “income inequality is strongly related to male victimization,” income inequality “has a somewhat weaker association with female homicide rates.”

A man in the shadows holds a gun

Gender inequality, in contrast, is “associated with increased violence” against both men and women, according to the study. One possible explanation: Perhaps “gender inequality exacerbates conflicts.”

“Governmental measures to promote gender and income equality” can be “a step towards reducing violence committed against both men and women,” Valdimarsdottir said. But she added: “The question remains: Are gender-equal countries less violent because of gender equality, or have women gained more power in countries that are more peaceful?”

SNAPSHOT is SUM’s new afternoon research brief.