Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Ariel C. Armony

Second Committee Member

Marten Brienen

Third Committee Member

Belkys Torres


As gang violence has become a prominent issue in Central America, understanding its root causes becomes critical to its reduction. This analysis seeks to examine the effects of economic growth and inequality on increasing gang violence in the democratic countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Through the use of simple regressions the relationships between economic growth, inequality and gang violence were examined. The results found that inequality and economic growth were statistically correlated in all three countries. Although, there was positive correlation between inequality and economic growth in Costa Rica, and there was a negative relationship in El Salvador and Nicaragua. This negative or positive correlation was found to be the deciding factor on the type of effect that economic growth had on gang violence. The results indicated that the strength of democracy within a country is not necessarily a predictor for equality. However, changes in equality during periods of economic growth do serve as indicator of the effects of economic growth on gang violence.


Gang violence; maras; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Nicaragua; Violence