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Integrating Race, Place and Motive in Social Disorganization Theory: Lessons From a Comparison of Black and Latino Homicide Types in Two Immigrant Destination Cities

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 43 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2005 Pages: 837-872
Amie L. Nielsen; Matthew T. Lee; Ramiro Martinez Jr.
Date Published
August 2005
36 pages
By concurrently disaggregating homicides by motive, race/ethnicity, and place, this study tested whether social-disorganization measures and other predictors had similar effects on Black and Latino homicide motives in San Diego, CA, and Miami, FL.
The unit of analysis was census tracts with 500 or more residents in San Diego (n=196) and Miami (n=70). Data for all independent variables were obtained from 1990 census information. The addresses where all homicides occurred for the period 1985 to 1995 were geocoded into the census tracts in which they occurred and aggregated to the tract level. Information on homicide motive for dependent variables was obtained from internal files of the homicide investigation units to the two cities. The dependent variables were motive-specific (domestic, robbery, drug-related) in both cities for 1985 to 1995 disaggregated by race and ethnicity. Only homicides with Black or Latino victims were considered. The independent variables consisted of several measures consistent with social disorganization theory. The analyses corrected for potential problems associated with spatial autocorrelation. Generally, disadvantage predicted intimate killings for Blacks in both cites and Latinos in San Diego. None of the social disorganization factors were significant for robbery homicides for Latinos in either city. Black victims of robbery homicides in both cities tended to be concentrated in disadvantaged Black neighborhoods; whereas, Latino robbery victims were killed in a variety of areas throughout both cities. Results for drug-related homicides were largely inconsistent with expectations. Results suggest that ecological explanations of crime would be better served by detailed knowledge of local conditions and the strategic integration of theories. 3 tables and 75 references


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