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Neighborhood Disadvantage, Individual Economic Distress and Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 19 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 207-235
Michael L. Benson; Greer L. Fox; Alfred DeMaris; Judy Van Wyk
David McDowall
Date Published
September 2003
29 pages

This multi-level longitudinal study investigated the relationship between neighborhood economic disadvantage and violence against women in intimate violence and whether economic distress triggers intimate violence.


Evidence has shown that intimate violence against women is associated with economic disadvantage at both the neighborhood and individual levels. However, there is the need to disentangle the effects of neighborhood level economic disadvantage and individual level economic distress on intimate violence. This study analyzed a large dataset which merged waves one and two of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) with 1990 census tract data to investigate the relationship between economic disadvantage and domestic violence. Two related research questions were addressed: (1) did community context exert an independent effect on violence as suggested by contextual theories and (2) were community context and intimate violence statistically correlated for compositional reasons? Results support the argument that economic disadvantage may have a direct influence on intimate violence at both the neighborhood and individual levels. The results suggest that the effects of individual level economic disadvantage are not simply endogenous to other individual level characteristics. In addition, the association between community level socio-economic disadvantage and intimate violence is in part an effect of context and not entirely the result of differences in population composition between neighborhoods. This is a confirmation of social disorganization theory and the theory of concentration effects. Appendix and references