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Crime and Victimization Among Hispanic Adolescents: A Multilevel Longitudinal Study of Acculturation and Segmented Assimilation

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2008, $74,934)

The primary goal of this study is to examine how acculturation among Hispanic youth relates to their involvement in crime and their victimization experiences. While research shows that Hispanics who are more acculturated are more likely to engage in crime (e.g., Morenoff & Astor, 2006), virtually no studies have investigated why this is and in which contexts it is more likely to occur. We draw from segmented assimilation theory (Portes & Zhou, 1993) which combines elements of neighborhood structure and social processes with individual-level assimilation indicators to explore variation in delinquency and victimization. Segmented assimilation suggests that immigrant youth acculturate differentially depending on where they reside. Those who acculturate within disadvantaged, inner-city contexts are more likely to experience downward assimilation, resulting in more involvement in crime and other negative consequences. In turn, those acculturating in neighborhoods with high immigrant concentration are less likely to experience downward assimilation. Unfortunately, much of the research investigating the link between acculturation and individual-level outcomes has lacked theoretical guidance and failed to account for the context in which crime and victimization occur. In an effort to address these shortcomings, this study has three objectives. First, we are interested in determining the dimensions of neighborhood structural and social characteristics that are related to Hispanic adolescents' involvement in crime and victimization experiences. Second, we are interested not only in whether a relationship exists between individual level assimilation status and crime and victimization outcomes, but also how neighborhood context contributes to our understanding of this relationship. Third, we want to explore whether empirically-supported criminological constructs known to predict delinquency and victimization (e.g., delinquent peers) can predict these outcomes for Hispanic adolescents and how they guide us in understanding the relationships among assimilation status and crime and victimization. We propose to use longitudinal data collected on three adolescent cohorts residing in eighty neighborhoods from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN). Multi-level statistical techniques that appropriately take into account the nesting of individuals within neighborhoods will be used. The analytic framework will allow us to assess the independent and interactive effects of neighborhood conditions, assimilation status, and individual level measures of criminological constructs on criminal involvement and victimization outcomes.

Date Created: September 10, 2008