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Neighborhood Structure and Race-Specific Rates of Intimate Assault

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 41 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2003 Pages: 393-422
Date Published
May 2003
30 pages

This study examined the effects of neighborhood structure on intimate assault rates in order to test the racial invariance thesis.


The racial invariance thesis presents an ecological approach to crime by asserting that neighborhood level social processes that influence crime rates have the same effects on African-Americans and Whites. Previous research examining this thesis has focused on race-specific rates of violence at the city level, but not the neighborhood level. To test this thesis at the neighborhood level, the effects of neighborhood structure on race-specific rates of intimate assault were measured for adult males across 216 census tracts in Hamilton County, OH. Individual-level data on assaults over a 21-month period were taken from the Hamilton County Department of Pre-trial Services and aggregated by race for each census tract. Aggregate-level predictors of intimate violence were derived from 1990 census tract data. Results of statistical analyses reveal roughly equivalent effects of neighborhood disadvantage and population age structure on assault rates for White and African-American males. A stronger effect, however, was indicated for disinvestment in marriage and disinvestment in neighborhoods on rates of intimate assault for African-American males. This finding suggests that the racial invariance thesis may not apply to this particular indicator of intimate assault rates at the neighborhood-level. Furthermore, previous research has indicated that neighborhood structural effects are stronger for Whites, which is clearly refuted by the current results. Future research should focus on offering direct measures of the social processes hypothesized to mediate the effects of ecological indicators on race-specific crime rates. Tables, references

Date Published: May 1, 2003