• Overlapping forms of inequality contribute to violent victimization in cities, from wealth inequality to educational opportunities and property rights;
  • In virtually every city, the vast majority of violent crime is concentrated in just a few neighbourhoods;
  • To reverse inequality and make cities safer, governments, business and civil society groups must start by targeting hot spots, especially in areas of deprivation.

Urban violence is predictable; it concentrates in specific places, among certain people and at very particular times. This means violence is hyperlocal, concentrated in “hot spot” neighbourhoods and blocks.

Inequality, whether in terms of income, wealth or welfare and endowments, is a strong determinant of everything from social cohesion and social mobility to life expectancy. A reduction of inequality and concentrated disadvantage in violent cities and neighbourhoods is, therefore, one of the most powerful ways to reduce violence.

Where a person is born and lives correlates with their overall life chances. Unsurprisingly, people living in environments characterized by high levels of economic and social inequality tend to be more exposed to violence and victimization than those living elsewhere. Neighbourhoods exhibiting higher levels of income inequality and concentrated disadvantage experience higher levels of mistrust, social disorganization and violent crime. Failure to adequately address these issues dramatically reduces equality of opportunity and outcomes across generations, perpetuating violence.

Multiple and overlapping forms of inequality contribute to violent victimization in cities. For example, people in the lower income-and-wealth quintiles are more likely to be a victim than those in the higher earnings brackets. In Mexico, despite a national decline in poverty and income inequality, municipalities registering higher economic inequality report higher levels of violent crime. The most-affected neighbourhoods tend to have limited natural surveillance, residential disadvantage (low-income, high unemployment, low education) and neighbourhood instability (high levels of mobility and single-headed households).

Similarly, racial and gender inequalities not only perpetuate economic inequality but are linked to higher exposure to violence. Labour force participation, educational achievement, reproductive health and political representation are all closely aligned with higher levels of safety.

The world's most violent cities in 2015

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