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NEIGHBORHOOD VIOLENCE, POVERTY, AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING
We explore the psychological consequences of heightened levels of exposure to neighborhood violence among the poor. Using a nationally representative panel dataset from South Africa—a country with high levels of interpersonal violence, urban poverty, and inequality—we estimate the relationship between neighborhood violence and psychological well-being. Specifically we use household-level perceptions of neighborhood violence that we validate using objective data from the the South African Police Service and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. With these data, we first show that the poor live in neighborhoods that they perceive to have higher levels of violence and live in districts that have objectively more violence. Second, by using a number of methods to disentangle confounding variation, we find that higher levels of perceived violence are strongly linked to elevated depressive symptoms and an increased likelihood of being at risk for clinical depression. Finally, we find that this link is strongest among the poor and that living in urban neighborhoods with high levels of violence while poor is predictive of future poverty in our sample. We posit that this relationship may be a mechanism through psychological poverty traps may operate.
Keywords: Violence, Psychological Well-being, Depression, Mental Health, Poverty, Neighborhood Effects, South Africa.