NEIGHBORHOOD INEQUALITY, COLLECTIVE EFFICACY, AND THE SPATIAL DYNAMICS OF URBAN VIOLENCE*

Authors


  • *

    This is a revised version of a paper presented at the national conference, “Neighborhood Effects on Low-Income Families,” sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Joint Center for Poverty Research, Northwestern University and University of Chicago, September 9–10, 1999, and at the Annual Meeting of American Society of Criminology, Toronto, November 1999. We thank Richard Block for assistance in obtaining Chicago homicide records, and Jens Ludwig, Robert Bursik, Jr., and the anonymous reviewers of Criminology for helpful comments. We also gratefully acknowledge financial support for this research from the National Institute of Justice, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American Bar Foundation.

  • University of Michigan

  • Jeffrey D. Morenoff is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate at the Population Studies Center and the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan. His major interests include health, crime, urban neighborhoods, and the analysis of spatial data. His current research is on the neighborhood context of birth weight and youth offending. He also is involved in both the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) and the Chicago Community Adult Health Study.

  • Robert J. Sampson is the Lucy Flower Professor in Sociology at the University of Chicago and Senior Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. His major research interests include criminology, the life course, and urban sociology. He is currently studying community-level social processes as part of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, for which he serves as Scientific Director. He also is writing a book with John Laub on life-course trajectories over 70 years among 500 men incarcerated as juveniles.

  • Stephen W. Raudenbush is Professor in the School of Education and Department of Statistics and a Senior Research Scientist in the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan. He is Scientific Director of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), a study of how family, neighborhood, and school settings shape the social development, mental health, and exposure to violence of children growing up in Chicago.

Abstract

Highlighting resource inequality, social processes, and spatial interdependence, this study combines structural characteristics from the 1990 census with a survey of 8,872 Chicago residents in 1995 to predict homicide variations in 1996–1998 across 343 neighborhoods. Spatial proximity to homicide is strongly related to increased homicide rates, adjusting for internal neighborhood characteristics and prior homicide. Concentrated disadvantage and low collective efficacy—defined as the linkage of social control and cohesion—also independently predict increased homicide. Local organizations, voluntary associations, and friend/kinship networks appear to be important only insofar as they promote the collective efficacy of residents in achieving social control and cohesion. Spatial dynamics coupled with neighborhood inequalities in social and economic capacity are therefore consequential for explaining urban violence.

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