• *

    This paper was based on a paper presented at the 44th annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology. Helpful comments on earlier drafts were made by Manuel Chavez, Lavelle Cox, Mary Devitt, Jeff Fagan, Ansley Hamid, Clint Holloway, Joan Moore, Steve Percy, Jorge Silva, Edward Smith, Claire Sterk-Elifson, Angelo Vega, and Jerome Wonders. Send correspondence to Hagedorn, UWM Urban Research Center, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201.

  • John M. Hagedorn is Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director of the “Drug Posses, Gangs, and the Underclass” study at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Urban Research Center. He is the author of People and Folks: Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City.


Milwaukee research finds that most young male adult gang members cannot be described accurately as “committed long-term participants” in the drug economy. Rather, most adult gang members are involved sporadically with drug sales, moving in and out of conventional labor markets at irregular intervals. Four types of male adult gang members are described; only one type has rejected conventional values. Despite relatively high average earnings from drug sales, most gang members would accept full-time jobs with modest wages. This suggests that severe and mandatory penalties for cocaine use and sales should be ended.