Objective: To test whether relations between economic development, economic inequality, and child and youth homicide rates are sex- and age-specific, and whether a country's wealth modifies the impact of economic inequality on homicide rates.
Methods: Outcome variables were homicide rates around 1994 in males and females in the age ranges 0-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24 years from 61 countries. Predictor variables were per capita gross domestic product (GDP), GINI coefficient, percentage change in per capita gross national product (GNP) and female economic activity as a percentage of male economic activity. Relations were analysed by ordinary least squares regression.
Findings: All predictors explained significant variances in homicide rates in those aged 15-24. Associations were stronger for males than females and weak for children aged 0-9. Models that included female economic inequality and percentage change in GNP increased the effect in children aged 0-9 and the explained variance in females aged 20-24. For children aged 0-4, country clustering by income increased the explained variance for both sexes. For males aged 15-24, the association with economic inequality was strong in countries with low incomes and weak in those with high incomes.
Conclusion: Relations between economic factors and child and youth homicide rates varied with age and sex. Interventions to target economic factors would have the strongest impact on rates of homicide in young adults and late adolescent males. In societies with high economic inequality, redistributing wealth without increasing per capita GDP would reduce homicide rates less than redistributions linked with overall economic development.