Effects of Social and Environmental Factors on Homicide in the Former Soviet Union

Jay T. Gilliam, University of Oklahoma
Thomas J. Burns, University of Oklahoma
William Alex Pridemore, University of Oklahoma
Oleg I. Gubin, Univ. of/Oklahoma ~ Univ. of Moscow

Recent theoretical work (e.g. Homer-Dixon 1999) posits a number of linkages between environmental degradation and violence, yet there is a dearth of quantitative, empirical research to bolster these ideas. Using newly available data for the regions of the former Soviet Union, we test hypotheses that environmental degradation, along with a number of social factors (which include population density, poverty, inequality, and regional development level), affect the likelihood of violence--in this case of homicide. Over the past decade in the former Soviet Union, radical political reforms have been accompanied by fast-paced social, economic and environmental changes. These in turn have had drastic implications for social policy, the former welfare system and income distribution. Largely as a function of these social and political changes, there has been upheaval in environmental and quality of life outcomes. Thus, these data provide a unique opportunity to juxtapose rapid social transition with environmental degradation as they affect violent outcomes. Consistent with our hypotheses, we find that environmental degradation affects homicide, and that the effect remains robust, even when controlling for a number of other social factors. We conclude with a theoretical discussion, particularly with the intersecting human ecological and criminological implications of our findings.

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Updated 05/20/2006