Publication Date



Presented November 2007 at the American Society of Criminology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia.


Messner and Rosenfeld’s institutional-anomie theory (IAT) has advanced our understanding of cross-national variation in homicide rates. Empirical tests of IAT have primarily examined how non-economic institutions alleviate or mitigate the mal-effects of economic inequality and economic deprivation. As economic institutions gain strength and dominance, non-economic institutions tend to weaken and are forced to accommodate the market. This creates an elevated state of institutional anomie that is conducive to higher violent crime rates. Most cross-national quantitative tests of IAT have examined the comparative strength of economic and social support institutions (especially social welfare) and find support for the theory. However, prior research has not examined other anomic institutional configurations that could increase violent crime rates within nation-states. For example, global economic forces coupled with an anemic nation-state government possessing high levels of corruption, patronage, and clientalism, all of which are evidence of market forces penetrating the polity, could theoretically represent an institutional-imbalance promoting higher violent crime rates. Our cross-national quantitative study is an attempt to fill this gap in the literature by offering a measure of political corruption. Our models reexamine the effects of the economy on homicide rates while controlling for various measures of social support and political corruption. The theoretical and empirical implications are discussed.


Criminology | Inequality and Stratification | Sociology | Work, Economy and Organizations