Monday, March 6, 2023
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
Birkelund Board Room, 111 Thayer Street
Most of what we know about organized criminal violence comes from research about illegal narcotics markets. Yet, these groups also fight to capture markets for legal commodities, as evidenced by Sicilian lemons and South African abalone. Under what conditions do criminal groups violently expand into markets for licit goods? We argue that rapid increases in the accessible share of a good’s export value create opportunities for immediate profit and future market manipulation. This provokes violence against producers and competitors as groups expand their territorial holdings and economic portfolio. We test our argument cross-nationally (1993-2018) with data from the Atlas of Economic Complexity, V-Dem, and UNODC. Increases in a country’s share of global export value for agricultural goods correspond with high homicide counts – but only where criminal groups are present. We then provide additional evidence of our mechanism and address concerns about reverse causality using data on Mexican avocados.
Chelsea Estancona is an assistant professor of political science at the University of South Carolina. Her research focuses on the political economy of conflict and criminality.