Stability and Change in Female and Male Violence across Rural and Urban Counties, 1981–2006



Two durable criminological patterns have been higher violence rates in urban compared to rural areas and by males compared to females. To derive and evaluate hypotheses related to correspondence across place and sex groups in changes in violence trends, we draw on a spatial-inequality perspective that attends to the geographic distribution of inequalities at the subnational scale, as well as to recent extensions of social-disorganization theory to variation in rural and female violence rates. Our study's focus is on systematically delineating the extent and timing of change in female and male violence trends, the rural-urban violence gap, and the gender gap. We apply epidemiological joinpoint techniques to Uniform Crime Reports arrest data from completely rural to highly urbanized settings for several violent offenses (homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, and misdemeanor assault) between 1981 and 2006. Female and male violence rates in rural to urban settings generally followed the same course over 25 years. Analyses generally indicated parallel violence trends of rural and urban females and males and only subtle changes in the rural-urban and gender gaps in serious violence. Serious violence became somewhat less concentrated in urban centers owing to more sizable urban rate declines after the mid-1990s. In all contexts, the gender gap in assault arrests narrowed, but the female share of serious violence (homicide, robbery) remained much the same; this result suggests change in the social control of minor violence by females across rural and urban settings.