The neighborhood context of racial and ethnic disparities in arrest
Cite this article as: Kirk, D.S. Demography (2008) 45: 55. doi:10.1353/dem.2008.0011 Abstract
This study assesses the role of social context in explaining racial and ethnic disparities in arrest, with a focus on how distinct neighborhood contexts in which different racial and ethnic groups reside explain variations in criminal outcomes. To do so, I utilize a multilevel, longitudinal research design, combining individual-level data with contextual data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN). Findings reveal that black youths face multiple layers of disadvantage relative to other racial and ethnic groups, and these layers work to create differences in arrest. At the family level, results show that disadvantages in the form of unstable family structures explain much of the disparities in arrest across race and ethnicity. At the neighborhood level, black youths tend to reside in areas with both significantly higher levels of concentrated poverty than other youths as well as lower levels of collective efficacy than white youths. Variations in neighborhood tolerance of deviance across groups explain little of the arrest disparities, yet tolerance of deviance does influence the frequency with which a crime ultimately ends in an arrest. Even after accounting for relevant demographic, family, and neighborhood-level predictors, substantial residual arrest differences remain between black youths and youths of other racial and ethnic groups.
This research was supported in part by Grant 2004- IJCX-0012 from the National Institute of Justice, by National Science Foundation Grant SES-021551 to the National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR), and by the Henry A. Murray Dissertation Award from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods was conducted with support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, and the National Institute of Mental Health. A previous version of this manuscript was presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Philadelphia. I thank Robert Goerge and John Dilts for their assistance in obtaining and processing the official arrest data used in this study. I also thank Andrew Abbott, Patrick Heuveline, John Laub, Andrew Papachristos, Rob Sampson, the editors, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful advice and comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Any findings or conclusions expressed are solely those of the author.
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