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Legal Cynicism and (Subcultural?) Tolerance of Deviance: The Neighborhood Context of Racial Differences

NCJ Number
Law & Society Review Volume: 32 Issue: 4 Dated: 1998 Pages: 777-804
Date Published
May 1998
28 pages

This article advances a neighborhood perspective on racial differences.


The basic premise of the article is that structural characteristics of neighborhoods explain variations in normative orientations about law, criminal justice and deviance that are often confounded with the demographic characteristics of individuals. A study of 8,782 residents of 343 Chicago neighborhoods disclosed that African Americans and Latinos were less tolerant of deviance, including violence, than whites. At the same time, neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage displayed elevated levels of legal cynicism, dissatisfaction with police and tolerance of deviance unaccounted for by sociodemographic composition and crime-rate differences. Concentrated disadvantage also helped explain why African Americans were more cynical about law and dissatisfied with the police. Neighborhood context is thus important for resolving the seeming paradox that estrangement from legal norms and agencies of criminal justice, especially for blacks, is compatible with the personal condemnation of deviance. Tables, notes, references

Date Published: May 1, 1998