A previous draft of this paper was presented at the 2001 meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Atlanta, GA. We appreciate helpful comments from Richard Rosenfeld, Scott Phillips, T. David Evans, Kent Kerley, and the journal's reviewers on previous drafts of this manuscript. Direct correspondence to Michael O. Maume, Dept. of Sociology & Criminal Justice, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28:403–5978, firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND VIOLENCE: A SUB-NATIONAL TEST OF INSTITUTIONAL ANOMIE THEORY*
Article first published online: 7 MAR 2006
Volume 41, Issue 4, pages 1137–1172, November 2003
How to Cite
MAUME, M. O. and LEE, M. R. (2003), SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND VIOLENCE: A SUB-NATIONAL TEST OF INSTITUTIONAL ANOMIE THEORY. Criminology, 41: 1137–1172. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2003.tb01016.x
Michael O. Maume is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His areas of research interest are macrosocial correlates of lethal violence, communities and crime, and life course criminology. He has recently been the coauthor of articles published in Rural Sociology, Homicide Studies, and Violence Against Women.
Matthew R. Lee is an Associate Professor of Sociology and a Research Fellow with the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University. His areas of interest are macro-criminology and violence. Recent research appears in Justice Quarterly, The Sociological Quarterly, Criminology, Rural Sociology, and various other journals.
- Issue published online: 7 MAR 2006
- Article first published online: 7 MAR 2006
- institutional anomie theory;
- social institutions;
- instrumental homicide
Messner and Rosenfeld's institutional anomie theory is grounded in the assumption that relatively higher crime rates in the United States are due to (1) the overwhelming influence of economic motives and institutions in society, and (2) the subjugation of all other social institutions to cultural economic interests (e.g., the American Dream). Our analysis is designed to extend the limited body of empirical research on this theory in several ways. First, we seek to test the utility of institutional anomie theory for predicting crime rates across aggregate units within the United States (counties). Second, we draw out the theory's emphasis on instrumental crime and suggest that measures of noneconomic social, political, familial, religious, and educational institutions will be particularly relevant for explaining instrumental as opposed to expressive violence. Third, in contrast to prior research, we develop conceptual reasons to expect that these factors will primarily mediate (as opposed to moderate) the relationship between economically motivating pressures and instrumental violence. Our negative binomial regression analyses of data from the Supplementary Homicide Reports and various censuses indicate that the measures of noneconomic institutions perform well in explaining both instrumental and expressive homicides, but that these measures mediate the impact of economic pressures (as measured by the Gini coefficient of family income inequality) to commit instrumental violence most strongly. Further, we find only very limited support for the more popular moderation hypothesis.