Are Murder Rates Higher in More Unequal Rich Countries?

“This simple and unexplainable piece of graffiti on a wall in Wolverhampton made me instantly think of murder, with the blood red line rising sharply upward seemingly representing the trajectory on a graph. Its almost as if the photograph is a still from a crime scene or is pointing to where some misdemeanour has taken place.” 57 Murder rates are lower and children experience less violence in more equal societies. In Britain, 35% of people say they are worried about mugging, 33% are worried about being attacked, 24% of women are worried about rape, and 13% are worried that they might be the victim of racial violence. People also fear harassment.

Although fear of crime doesn’t always reflect actual trends in crime and violence, it is clear that some societies are much more violent than others. In the USA a child is killed by a gun every three hours and in the UK over a million violent crimes were recorded in 2005-2006. The link between inequality and homicide rates has been shown in as many as 40 studies, and the differences are large: there are five-fold differences in murder rates between different countries related to inequality. The most important reason why violence is more common in more unequal societies is that it is often triggered by people feeling looked down, disrespected and loss of face.