Race, Neighborhood Disadvantage, and Retaliatory Homicide

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2005-05-31

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Criminologists have long struggled to explain the concentration of violence among economically disadvantaged minorities. Anderson ethnographically develops an explanation of violent behavior among blacks in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. He argues that because these individuals are isolated from mainstream institutions and lack faith in the criminal justice system, they live by a "code of the street" in which violence is used as a tool to maintain respect among peers and deter aggression. The present research is designed to determine whether patterns of homicide in Chicago from 1985 to 1995 support Anderson's theory. I use data on characteristics of homicide offenders and U.S. Census data from 1990 for measures of neighborhood disadvantage at the census tract level. The results generally support Anderson's theory in that homicides committed by blacks and in neighborhoods with greater disadvantage are more likely to be retaliatory than homicides committed by whites and in neighborhoods with less disadvantage.

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