Social Capital and Homicide Victimization: A Cross-National Study

Nancy Morris, University of Maryland at College Park

Social capital is a resource individuals draw upon to facilitate social action. These resources emerge as a by-product from mutually reinforcing and trusting social networks between and among other individuals and social institutions. Prior research has suggested that social capital may have the potential to enhance the understanding of crime by illuminating the crime reducing (social capital) and crime-enhancing (criminal capital) processes associated with informal social bonds and networks.

In this paper we examine the effect of social capital on homicide rates in different countries using cross-national data taken from the 1980, 1990 and 1995-1997 World Values Survey. The World Values Survey is a cross-national survey of norms and attitudes administered to approxiately 79,000 people in 50 countries. Based on Paxton's (1998) conceptualization we measure social capital as consisting of generalized trust and membership in voluntary associations. For the outcome variable, we use five-year averages of homicide victimization rates from the World Health Organization. We hypothesize that countries with greater social capital will, on average, have lower rates of homicide victimization than those countries with less social capital.

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Updated 05/20/2006