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Cost of Inequality - Metropolitan Structure and Violent Crime

NCJ Number
American Sociological Review Volume: 47 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1982) Pages: 114-129
J R Blau; P M Blau
Date Published
16 pages
The hypothesis tested is that variations in rates of urban criminal violence largely result from differences in racial inequality in socioeconomic conditions. Data on the 125 largest American metropolitan areas (SMSA's) are used to ascertain whether this hypothesis can account for three correlates of violent crime differently interpreted in the literature.
Criminal violence is positively related to location in the South, which has been interpreted as the result of the Southern tradition of violence. It is positively related to the proportion of blacks in an SMSA, which has been interpreted as reflecting a subculture of violence in ghettos. And it is positively related to poverty, which has been interpreted as the emphasis on toughness and excitement in the culture of poverty. The analysis reveals that socioeconomic inequality between races, as well as economic inequality generally, increases rates of criminal violence, but once economic inequalities are controlled poverty no longer influences these rates, neither does Southern location, and the proportion of blacks in the population hardly does. These results imply that if there is a culture of violence, its roots are pronounced economic inequalities, especially if associated with ascribed position. (Author abstract)