Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Modernization, Inequality, Routine Activities, and International Variations in Household Property Crimes

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Modernization, Inequality, Routine Activities, and International Variations in Household Property Crimes

Article excerpt


International comparisons of crime victimization represent a relatively new area of criminological research. Most studies of international differences in crime use official statistics generated by governmental agencies (Fajnzylber, Lederman & Loayza, 1998; Lafree & Tseloni, 2006; Reichel, 2002). An important feature of the current study is that it is one of the few studies (Neapolitan, 2003; Uludag, Colvin, Hussey & Eng, 2009) to utilize self-report crime victimization data from samples of citizens in multiple nations. Another important feature of this study is that a variety of theoretical explanations of international variations in crime victimization are compared. The study evaluates the relative strength of variables related to modernization (democracy level, economic development) and inequality (world system status and internal levels of inequality) as well as individual-level variables related to routine activities and lifestyles (marital status, age, gender, education, and income) in explaining household property crime victimization (burglary, theft from vehicle, and vehicle theft).

The study utilizes data from the International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS, 2003), a self-report victimization survey that uses standardized questionnaire items to measure whether or not respondents have been victims of household property crime (occurrence of victimization) and, if so, how often they have been victims (intensity of victimization). Given that individual respondents live under the same macro-level context in each of the 42 nations from which samples were drawn, the study utilizes multilevel regression to take into account these "nesting" effects among individuals in the international survey and to take into account the random effects of country-level variables not directly measured in the analysis. Because this study utilizes self-reported victimization data and multi-level regression analysis and tests a variety of theoretical explanations, it represents an important contribution to the field of comparative criminology.

Modernization, Inequality, Routine Activities and Crime Victimization

Three sets of variables inform this exploratory study of individuals' experiences with crime victimization in forty-two nations: 1) Modernization, which focuses on two elements: level of democracy and level of economic development. 2) Inequality, which also has two dimensions: inequality among nations in the modern world system and inequality within each nation. 3) Routine Activities, focusing on individual demographic characteristics connected to lifestyles and daily activities that make individuals more or less likely to be victims of crime.

Modernization and crime victimization

Modernization theory focuses on two elements of development, one political and the other economic. Modernization involves expansion of democratic governance and economic development characterized by free market mechanisms that presumably lead to greater economic output and national well-being. The modernization perspective assumes that all nations have (or will) follow stages of political and economic development similar to those experienced by Western societies (Almond & Powell, 1968; Rostow, 1991). According to modernization theorists, fully modern societies, because of rapid technological advances, have relatively higher levels of economic output and democratic processes of governance, which together promote general welfare and human development through enhanced literacy, medical care, sanitation, and consumerism.

Modernization theory has been used to explain international variations in crime (Heiland & Shelley, 1992; Shelly, 1981). These criminologists suggest (with some support from official crime data) that greater modernization (democratic development and economic development) generally leads to lower crime and to shifts in crime patterns toward relatively more property crimes. …

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