U.S. flag

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

Sex Ratio, Family Disruption, and Rates of Violent Crime: The Paradox of Demographic Structure

NCJ Number
134337
Journal
Social Forces Volume: 69 Issue: 3 Dated: (March 1991) Pages: 693-713
Author(s)
S F Messner; R J Sampson
Date Published
1991
Length
21 pages
Annotation
Exploring a possible explanation for the anomalous "null effects" of the sex ratio on rates of violent crime in previous macrolevel research, a model is formulated that stipulates a positive direct effect of the sex ratio on rates of violent crime and negative indirect effects via the mediating variable of family disruption.
Abstract
Data on aggregate levels of murder and robbery from a sample of 171 U.S. cities with a population greater than 100,000 in 1980 were used to evaluate the proposed model. Sex ratios exhibited nontrivial variation for both whites and blacks. The sex ratio exhibited negative relationships with the indicator of family disruption, percent female-headed households, which in turn was related positively to the violent crime rates. Positive effects of the sex ratio on the violent crime emerged only with controls for family disruption. The results support in general the model of countervailing direct positive effects of the sex ratio on rates of criminal violence and negative indirect effects via family disruption. 15 notes, 3 tables, and 77 references

Date Published: January 1, 1991