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No Community Is an Island: The Effects of Resource Deprivation on Urban Violence in Spatially and Socially Proximate Communities

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 44 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2006 Pages: 509-548
Daniel P. Mears; Avinash S. Bhati
Date Published
August 2006
40 pages

This study examined whether urban neighborhoods that adjoined neighborhoods characterized by social and economic deprivation experienced higher rates of violence (homicide) than urban neighborhoods located some distance from a deprived neighborhood.


The study found that higher resource deprivation in an urban neighborhood was associated with higher homicide rates not only in those communities but also in adjoining communities and in socially similar communities that did not directly adjoin the deprived community. Specifically, resource deprivation was positively linked with instrumental and expressive, but not gang-related, homicides in socially similar communities. For instrumental homicides, researchers suggest that individuals from deprived neighborhoods who are intent on committing a crime may target socially similar areas because they fit in, and they select adjacent neighborhoods because of their accessibility. These findings suggest that analyses of crime patterns in a given neighborhood must consider the attractions of the neighborhood for mobile criminals who reside in an adjoining and/or socially similar but deprived neighborhood. Suggestions for future research are offered. With assistance from the Project on Human Development in Chicago's Neighborhoods, the study identified 343 neighborhood clusters. Data were obtained on relevant structural, social, and economic variables for 1990 from the Neighborhood Change Database. Data for the dependent variables--aggregated and disaggregated homicide counts between 1989 and 1991--were obtained from the Homicides in Chicago data files available from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. The resource deprivation index included the percentage of families with children headed by females, percentage of the resident population below the poverty level, the unemployment rate, median household income, and median family income. 4 tables and 84 references