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Modernization, Age Structure, and Regional Context: A Cross-National Study of Crime

NCJ Number
Sociological Spectrum Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: (July-September 1992) Pages: 257-277
S T Ortega; J Corzine; C Burnett; T Poyer
Date Published
21 pages
Using pooled cross-sectional and time-series crime data obtained from INTERPOL for a sample of 51 nations, this study tests the Durkheimian-modernization (DM) hypothesis that economic modernization increases the rate of crime.
The central concept linking modernization processes to increased crime rates in the DM hypothesis is anomie, conceptualized as the destruction of the traditional normative and moral order of society which in turn weakens informal social controls on individual deviance. While other studies have found no significant relationship between modernization and crime rates, the authors note that these studies have not adequately controlled for the population age structure of nations nor their regional location. The two broad categories of crime included in this study are homicide and larceny and theft; the general indicator of modernization is gross national product. Age is collapsed into five categories. One major finding is that, when the analysis is based on change in levels of economic modernity and controlled for age and region, the coefficients for gross national product parallel in direction and magnitude theft and homicide rates. Second, regional location is strongly associated with homicide and, to a lesser degree, theft rates. This effect is independent of economic and demographic change. Future research should focus on regional interaction effects and on the mechanisms that condition the effects of economic development and urbanization on crime. 3 tables, 3 notes, and 41 references