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Explaining Regional and Urban Variation in Crime: A Review of Research

NCJ Number
Graham C. Ousey
Date Published
48 pages
This chapter reviews research from the past few decades that has examined the distribution of crime across regions, metropolitan areas, cities, and neighborhoods.
Research on the regional variability in crime has focused on explaining Southern/non-Southern differences in homicide through two theoretical models: the Southern culture of violence and economic deprivation. Despite some inconsistency in this literature, there is considerable evidence that supports each view. Studies that have examined variation in crime across cities and metropolitan areas have focused mostly on two explanatory perspectives: social stratification and social control. Within the social stratification literature, there is a lively debate between proponents of absolute and relative deprivation models. Although the evidence is somewhat mixed, research suggests that as both absolute and relative deprivation increase, there is a corresponding increase in aggregate crime rates. Research on the social control perspective generally supports the view that cities and metropolitan areas with higher levels of informal social control (e.g., family structure, residential stability) have lower crime rates. Neighborhood-level research shows that recent extensions of the macro-level social control model have improved explanations of community-level variation in crime rates. The evidence suggests that neighborhoods with higher levels of informal social control (e.g., peer supervision, social ties, and collective efficacy) have lower crime rates; however, these social-control effects vary by the race and class composition of neighborhoods. Important directions for future research on regional and urban variation in crime are discussed. 9 exhibits, 5 notes, and 227 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000