Unequal Crime Decline: Theorizing Race, Urban Inequality, and Criminal Violence

Unequal Crime Decline: Theorizing Race, Urban Inequality, and Criminal Violence

Unequal Crime Decline: Theorizing Race, Urban Inequality, and Criminal Violence

Unequal Crime Decline: Theorizing Race, Urban Inequality, and Criminal Violence

Synopsis

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Crime in most urban areas has been falling since 1991. While the decline has been well-documented, few scholars have analyzed which groups have most benefited from the crime decline and which are still on the frontlines of violence- and why that might be. In Unequal Crime Decline , Karen F. Parker presents a structural and theoretical analysis of the various factors that affect the crime decline, looking particularly at the past three decades and the shifts that have taken place, and offers original insight into which trends have declined and why.

Taking into account such indicators as employment, labor market opportunities, skill levels, housing, changes in racial composition, family structure, and drug trafficking, Parker provides statistics that illustrate how these factors do or do not affect urban violence, and carefully considers these factors in relation to various crime trends, such as rates involving blacks, whites, but also trends among black males, white females, as well as others. Throughout the book she discusses popular structural theories of crime and their limitations, in the end concentrating on today's issues and important contemporary policy to be considered. Unequal Crime Decline is a comprehensive and theoretically sophisticated look at the relationship among race, urban inequality, and violence in the years leading up to and following America's landmark crime drop.

Excerpt

I began this book when my research on racially disaggregated homicide was moving toward incorporating change models. Over the last few years I had published articles addressing the link between racial stratification and urban violence. Much of this work dealt with ways to integrate labor market characteristics with criminological theories when examining race-specific homicide rates, investigating the link between racial competition and intra- and interracial homicide rates, and exploring the relationship between specific structural characteristics, such as concentrated disadvantage, and racial variations in urban violence. Although I was examining in my work various aspects of the link between race, urban inequality, and violence, it was all based on cross-section designs. In the early zooos, when research on the crime drop was dominating the literature, I realized that the link between racial stratification and urban violence would be informed by this debate. My first attempt to incorporate change occurred in 200Z, when I received funds from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to examine the link between economic restructuring and disaggregated homicide rates in 1980 and 1990. Then, in 2004,1 published a paper examining the influence of changes in labor market and economic characteristics on black and white homicide rates in U.S. cities from 1980 to 1990. From this process I learned two important things. First, examining the influence of concentrated disadvantage on race-specific homicide rates did not capture the larger labor market characteristics in U.S. cities. The constructs of concentrated disadvantage and labor market structures, albeit related, were tapping two different aspects of the local urban economy. And while concentrated disadvantage was receiving a good bit of attention in the scholarly literature on violence, the nature of labor markets was not. Thus I realized that more research was needed on the changes in specific labor markets that were displacing workers in the urban context, contributing to the spatial concentration of disadvantage and rates of violence.

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