Crime and violence have had a dramatic impact on women, youth and
the economic well-being of families in Latin America and the Caribbean,
according to several studies commissioned by the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB).
The new studies underscore the more hidden dimensions of the cost
of crime on Latin America’s economies, by looking at issues such as
women’s health and property values.
The studies were the result of a call for proposals to academics
and other experts to use innovative and appropriate methodologies to
measure the cost of crime and violence in the region. Out of a total of
117 proposals received, eight are being presented by their authors at a
at the IDB headquarters in Washington.
The children of women who have suffered from
have a greater risk of being born underweight, and grow up with more
feeble health, with less chance they will be vaccinated and more likely
to suffer from diarrhea, according to one
study on seven countries in the region
a greater sense of insecurity lowers the value of urban properties
through higher rents. Pregnant women in Brazil are more likely to give
birth to underweight babies if they live in higher crime areas, to cite a
, a 1 percent increase in the number of homicides decreases the price of a home by 1.8 percent. In
, the economic costs of violence total $1.2 billion a year, or 3.1 percent of GDP.
Latin American and Caribbean citizens cite crime and violence as
their top concern, above unemployment, healthcare and other issues. The
region suffers from some of the world’s highest homicide rates and 20 of
the world’s most violence cities are located in Latin America and the
Caribbean. Public trust in public institutions and the police is also
lower than for other regions in the world.
“Crime has tangible direct costs such as the cost of funding a
private and public security infrastructure to prevent and combat crime,”
said Ana Corbacho, sector economic advisor of the IDB’s Institutions
for Development (IFD) Sector, which covers citizen security at the IDB.
“But the implications of crime on the region’s wellbeing are potentially
much greater. Violence not only victimizes individuals—it undermines
trust in public institutions.”
In Mexico, municipalities with greater
levels of violence
triggered by drug cartels during 2006–2010 had electricity
consumption—a proxy for GDP—trail those by less violent municipalities
by 6.8 percent per year. Municipalities with higher homicide rates also
experienced lower employment and lower levels of business ownership,
according to one study.
In Uruguay, the consequences of crime cost $319 million, including
the cost of stolen property and the opportunity costs from jail time.
One study focuses on juvenile delinquency. In
youths who are captured and sentenced are 15 percent less likely to
access the formal education system, which represents 0.9 years of
“A better understanding of the economic costs of violence and crime
is vital for public-sector decision-making in the citizen security
sector,” said Gustavo Beliz, an IDB specialist. “It allows for a
discussion more grounded on hard information, among officials in
ministries who deal with the areas of security, planning, and budgets.
This helps violence prevention policies become policies of the state.”
The IDB’s Citizen Security Platform
Citizen Security Platform
of the IDB has a completed or under execution project pipeline greater
than $450 million. It aims to support the efforts of public institutions
to better prevent crime and violence with actions that include social
initiatives focused on the creation of opportunities for young people,
strengthening management of police and penal justice, and with better