U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Rural and Urban Trends in Family and Intimate Partner Homicide: 1980-1999

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2004
138 pages
This study examined rural and urban trends in family and intimate partner homicide from 1980 through 1999.
Family and intimate partner homicides are different from other types of homicides in several ways, one of which is the difference between where intimate partner homicides occur when compared with stranger homicides. In fact, while conventional wisdom seems to categorize intimate partner homicides as an urban problem, the small body of research in this area suggests that intimate partner and family homicides are more likely in rural settings. As such, the current study uses “place” as the construct against which family and intimate partner homicide trends are examined over a 20-year period; place is defined by population and proximity to a metropolitan area. Data were drawn from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) from 1980 through 1999. The SHR includes information about murders and non-negligent homicides in the United States, including data on geographic location and relationship between victim and perpetrator. U.S. Census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000 were included to calculate population-based rates. The results indicated far greater family and intimate partner homicides, as well as all other murders, in rural counties when compared with urban areas. In fact, rates of intimate partner and family murder increased as the population decreased and as the distance from a metropolitan area increased. Rates of all other murders did not rise or fall with population or proximity rates. Several variables were identified as explanatory of how rurality affects rates of family and intimate partner homicide. These variables include: community socioeconomic distress, residential overcrowding, isolation, traditional views of sex roles, lack of access to health care, and substance abuse. Policy responses should be multifaceted with at least one aspect focused on the isolation experienced by rural victims. Exhibits, appendixes, bibliography, endnotes

Date Published: June 1, 2004