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Race, Local Life Circumstances, and Criminal Activity

NCJ Number
Social Science Quarterly Volume: 83 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 654-670
Alex R. Piquero; John M. MacDonald; Karen F. Parker
Date Published
September 2002
17 pages

This study incorporates race into factors that influence life-course perspectives, which in turn influence responses to changes in life circumstances and subsequent changes in criminal activity in adulthood.


The results indicates that changes in local life circumstances are related to changes in criminal activity, but do not eliminate the race/crime link for violence, i.e., race remains an important predictor of violence even after controlling for changes in local life circumstances. The study also found, however, that the effect of local life circumstances on criminal activity is apparently more similar than different across race, with the exception that common-law marriages are crime-generating among non-Whites compared to Whites. The authors suggest that it is possible that adult institutions of social control may have different meanings across racial groups. Cohabitation and marriage, for example, may have a different role in the lives of non-Whites compared with White offenders, which in turn may be a reflection of the different historical and ecological contexts that shape the role of marriage in inner-city communities. Finding ways to assist non-Whites in transitioning from common-law to "legal" marriages may be beneficial. As race becomes more salient in the transition from adolescence to adulthood, helping non-Whites access more economic opportunities, which likely opens avenues for "legal" marriages, may provide pathways out of the illicit economy that flourishes in inner-city neighborhoods. The study used longitudinal data on 524 parolees (51.5 percent non-White and 33 percent African-Americans) released from the California Youth Authority, who were monitored for 7 consecutive years after release. Data were collected on criminal activity and life events. 4 tables and 44 references