Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Informal Intersections: Gangs and Economic Opportunity in El Salvador Public Deposited

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  • In 2017, with a homicide rate of 61 per 100,000 (Motlagh, 2019), El Salvador began to gain and establish an international reputation as a territory consumed by gang violence and repressive policies that continue to grow in the twenty-first century. Simultaneous with this growth in violence, El Salvador has also experienced a relatively stable economic growth rate of 2.0 percent since 2000 (IMF, 2016). While this growth is among the slowest in the region (IMF, 2016), it does not appear to fluctuate in tandem with spikes or drops in gang violence. The coexistence of these two characteristics over the last two decades introduces a unique phenomenon that draws attention to the landscape in which Salvadorans have been able to consistently fabricate economic opportunities despite such a strong presence of crime and violence, as this study examines. This study examines this phenomenon by focusing on the coexistence of the fabrication of economic opportunity and gang activity and the active interaction between the two forces within the informal economy.


    This research aims to examine how Salvadorans have learned to navigate through the impacts of gang activity in an already unequal economy, maintaining a stable (but low) growth rate throughout spikes and dips of extreme violence (IMF, 2016). It will look at gang activities such as extortion as potentially creating economic opportunities for some outside of the formal economy. Other gang activities, in addition to extortion, such as homicide, reduce school attendance and drive outward migration, resulting in remittances that ultimately put into effect the generation of economic opportunities.


Date Awarded
  • 2022-04-01
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Last Modified
  • 2022-05-11
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