Marcelo Bergman

Marcelo Bergman is a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF) in Argentina and writes on a variety of issues related to crime, public security, illegal drugs and public policies in Latin America. Other areas of research include taxation, compliance and rule of law in the region. Bergman is particularly interested in evidence-based research on criminal justice, citizen security and illegal drug polices in Latin America, with a focus on sound data collection. Over the past two decades, he has dedicated much of his work to developing data sets for the analysis of these social issues.

marcelo bergman

​In addition to his academic writing, Bergman is the founder and director of the research center CELIV and director of the Master’s program in Criminology and Citizen Security at UNTREF. He has led many large data collection projects, including inmate surveys in 14 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, victimizations surveys in Argentina and Mexico and surveys of criminal court cases. In addition, he is currently launching the first longitudinal study on prisoner reentry.

Bergman is the author of four books in English:

Professor Bergman holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego.


Research

My interdisciplinary research focus combines sociology, public policy, economics and law. Over the past 20 years, my work has relied on evidence-based studies, with special attention to the production of new data when there was no information to respond to the research questions. Most of my work is comparative and quantitative, focusing specifically on several Latin American countries, and can be grouped into four lines of research:

marcelo bergman

Four areas of research are distinguished:

Crime in Latin America

This work pays particular attention to rising crime and patterns of criminality in most countries of the region, covering variations in violence, the makeup of illegal markets (including drugs), and the role of organized crime.

Since the 1980s, Latin America has experienced an upsurge of crime and violence. I have documented, described, analyzed and tested several hypotheses on the causality of this dramatic rise. Using a range of different data sources, I show that the wave of crime has been accompanied by the growth of illegal markets and an increase in average personal income. Crime has resulted from both an appetite for stolen and illegal goods among Latin American citizens and from the earnings produced by these illegal markets, which have found plenty of young people willing to risk their lives for profit and status.

marcelo bergman

The trajectories and intensities in the levels of crime and violence vary from country to country. This variation depends on the extent and profitability of illegal markets (illegal drugs has been a big driver) and the state’s capacities to neutralize these factors (the strength of criminal justice systems). These combined factors have produced an array of outcomes.

This line of research has relied heavily on the collection of new surveys that I directed:

victimization surveys in Mexico and Argentina, inmate surveys in 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and quantitative studies of representative samples of criminal court files in Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Several official data sources on crime and criminal justice were also critically reviewed and used. In 2013, I participated in an official UNPD initiative that collected official crime indicators from 18 Latin American countries for the report “Citizen Security with a Human Face.” Finally, I have conducted hundreds of interviews with public officers and policy makers in almost all 18 countries of Latin America.

Many journal articles on this research have been published along with three books in English: More Money more crime (OUP 2018) , Illegal Drugs and Drugs Trafficking in Latin America (Springer 2017), and Criminality, Public Security and the Challenges to Democracy in Latin America (eds with L Whitehead, Notre Dame UPress 2009). Country reports in Spanish were published on different inmate survey waves and countries and this research helped inform regional reports by the UNDP and IADB.

Taxation and Compliance

Tax evasion is rampant in most countries of Latin America. I study the tax behavior of taxpayers in several countries to test the effectiveness of state coercion in compelling citizens to abide by the law. I study the political economy of taxation in the region and the structure of tax revenues.

Despite vast noncompliance in Latin America, evidence-based studies on tax evasion are scarce. I have studied the tax behavior of Chileans and Argentines, and later Mexicans, using specially designed surveys of taxpayers and tax return samples in each country to empirically assess the level of individual compliance and taxpayer strategies to either abide by the law or evade taxes. Based on this research, I developed the concept of high or low tax compliance equilibrium to demonstrate that taxpayers adopt different strategies based on the given equilibrium.

Major trends in tax policies have been another focus of my research along with tax reforms and the political economy of taxation in Latin America, and I have engaged in data collection sets using experimental settings, surveys and tax audit data.

This line of research has yielded several publications including my book Tax Evasion and the Rule of Law: The Political Culture of Cheating and Compliance in Latin America (Penn State University Press 2009) , the report Progressive Tax Reform and equality in Latin America (Mahon Bergman and Arnson- WWC 2015) and many journal articles and book chapters.

Justice and Rule of Law

Since the transitions to democracy in the 1980s, Latin America has strengthened its judiciary to enhance the rule of law. I evaluate what has worked and what has not. I study the rule of law, the extent of law abidance in the region, and the effects of judicial reforms, paying special attention to the problem of trust in the law.

Research on the rule of law in the region has been predominantly undertaken by legal scholars and is theoretically oriented. I supplement their analysis by calling for a more nuanced perspective, paying special attention to the conditions that allow for an equilibrium of the rule of law to emerge and to methodological issues related to content validity in measurements of rule of law. I particularly examine the problem of trust in law and how it affects the consolidation or failure of the rule of law.

In addition, I have collected data from criminal court cases, civil law cases, and data from public organizations to estimate the productivity, efficiency and efficacy of different offices.

Most of this material was published in Spanish to facilitate access to legal scholars in the region. Among them is the volume I edited with Carlos Rosenkrantz, Confianza y Estado de Derecho (Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2009), (informe celiv) and several journal articles

Prisons

Latin America has experienced a trend of mass incarceration, with a threefold increase of its prison population. Through the collection of new data, I study the patterns of incarceration, the meager effects it has had in terms of reducing crime, the increase of violence both inside and outside prisons, and the lack of successful prisoner reentry programs.

As crime has risen in the region over the past two decades, incarceration has become the main response of the region’s criminal justice systems. I have collected data from different countries and contributed to reports by the UNDP (2013) the IADB (forthcoming), CAF (2014) ) on the state of prisons. Over the years, I have developed and directed 18 inmate surveys in 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, collecting original information on inmates’ upbringing, socialization patterns, criminal careers and trends, prosecution and sentencing, and prison conditions and daily lives.

Survey reports are available in Spanish for many of the countries, as well as regional reports published in English. In addition to several articles, a book on prison growth in Latin America is forthcoming (2020).


Books

I have authored five books in English and edited an anthology (in addition to the four works in Spanish listed above).


Data Collection Projects and Reports

I have directed dozens of original large data collection projects in the field of taxation as well as crime and criminal justice institutions. Below the major projects are listed, including (in some cases) research reports and databases.

Over the past 15 years, I have partnered with several colleagues and organizations to direct many inmate surveys in different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The following is a list of the surveys and the years they were conducted. In those marked with an asterisk, the survey data can be accessed through the link (available September 2019). In all other cases, data can be provided upon request. Several surveys have links or repositories for the reports (mostly in Spanish), either for single countries or a group of countries.

Three large pieces of research are based (at least in part) on these data collections: The UNDP Citizen Security Report (2013) , the IDB Latam report (in progress) the Caribbean report (in progress)

  • Mexico 2002
  • Mexico 2006
  • Mexico 2009
  • Mexico 2012* Report here
  • Argentina 2012*
  • Peru 2013*
  • El Salvador 2013*
  • Brazil (Sao Pablo) 2013*
  • Chile 2013*
  • Costa Rica 2017*
  • Honduras 2017*
  • Guyana 2016*
  • Bahamas 2016*
  • Trinidad & Tobago 2018*
  • Jamaica 2018*
  • Barbados 2018*
  • Surinam 2018*
  • Argentina 2019* (in progress)

Funding for these projects was provided by the Hewlett Foundation, the MacArthrur Foundation, Open Society, CIDE university in Mexico, UNTREF university in Argentina, the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP), the Comisión Andina de Fomento (CAF), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

Between 2014-2016, a random sample of 180 files were selected to study the type of criminal cases that district attorneys and courts in the city of Buenos Aires handle on a regular basis. The data sets and questionnaires can be requested from celiv@untref.edu.ar . The research report (in Spanish) can be downloaded here .

A systematic collection of news about crime from major newspapers in Argentina over a two-year period provides insight into how different crimes are reported. The data sets and questionnaires can be requested from celiv@untref.edu.ar . The research report (in Spanish) can be downloaded here .

Data is available upon request.

  1. Two surveys on tax behavior (1998), one in Chile and one in Argentina, sponsored by the tax offices of each country. Samples of 450 taxpayers in each country.
  2. Sample of randomly selected taxpayer returns in Chile and Argentina over three years in the 1990s (351 taxpayers in Chile, 416 taxpayers in Argentina).

Academic Service

I have served in many committees, departments, and offices. I list here the last three academic initiatives I am currently serving actively.

marcelo bergman
CELIV, Centro de Estudios Latinoamericano sobre Inseguridad y Violencia (Research Center for the study of Violence and insecurity in Latin America).

Director

This research center founded in 2013 at the University of Tres de Febrero in Argentina specializes in data collection and the analysis of crime and violence topics in the region. For more information see here.

M.A. program in Criminology and Citizen Security.

Director

This is the first research oriented graduate program in Argentina and among the first in Latin America that specialized in evidence based research and training in Criminology and Public Safety. For more information see here.

SOCLA Sociedad de Criminología Latinoamericana (Latin American Society of Criminology)

Founding board member

SOCLA began as an initiative of Latin American scholars coordinated by CELIV in 2017. It promotes evidence based research on crime and citizen security issues in the region. For more information see here.


CURRICULUM VITAE

Areas of Interest

Crime and Public Security

Tax Compliance

Sociology of Law

Law and Economics

Political Economy and Development

Criminology

Latin America

Academic Employment

Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Argentina
August 2012 - Present

Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Crime and Insecurity in Latin America.

CIDE
April 2002 - July 2012

Professor, Department of Legal Studies.

University of Oregon
1996 - 2000

Lecturer, Department of Sociology.

EDUCATION

Ph.D. in Sociology, University of California, San Diego, 2001.

M.A. in Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1985.

B.A., double major: Political Science and History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1981.

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Contact

Marcelo Bergman Ph.D.

Director

Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos sobre Inseguridad y Violencia
(+54 11) 5236-2334
(+54 911) 3447-1007