Income/wealth inequality and homicide show a clear link for 161 countries around the globe. More than 60% of the variation in violence/homicide (UNODC data1) can be explained by the World Bank’s GINI index2.
The GINI index, which represents income or wealth distribution, is the most commonly used measure of inequality. A country where everyone has equal income or wealth (all rich or all poor) would be represented by a low GINI index value. Contrariwise, countries where income or wealth is held by a few individuals will have a high index value (100 is practically, but not theoretically, the maximum value). In this case, the countries with the three lowest index values are Ukraine, Iceland, and Slovenia, and the three countries with the highest values are South Africa, Namibia, and Haiti (note that, to appear in this analysis, the country must have both a World Bank GINI index value and a UNODC homicide rate).
In addition to a (perhaps surprisingly) strong correlation, there is a clear grouping of regions in many cases. For example, European countries (green circles) are represented by both relatively low inequality and low homicide, whereas South American countries (yellow circles) are characterized by high inequality (or low equality) and a wide range of homicide rates ranging from Chile (3.6 murders per 100,000 people) to Brazil (26.7 per 100,000). Emerging trends or groupings can also be seen with Asian countries (orange circles), Sub-Saharan Africa (purple triangles), the Middle East (dark-green squares), Central America and the Caribbean (grey triangles), and ex-Soviet countries (red squares).
As usual the USA is in “good” company; stay tuned for the next post (Part #2) that looks at the countries that are the most similar to the USA in terms of inequality and homicide (SPOILER: it’s not pretty!).
Data and software: Homicide data is taken from the UNODC1 and inequality uses the World Bank’s GINI index data2. The data was compiled and visualized using Microsoft Excel3.