Political Behavior

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 352–373 | Cite as

Who riots? An empirical examination of the “new urban black” versus the social marginality hypotheses

  • T. David Mason
  • Jerry A. Murtagh


Much of the research on the socioeconomic characteristics of rioters has centered around the question of whether rioters were the dispossessed fringes of the black community who rioted “for fun and profit” or the more upwardly mobile segments of the black community who used civil violence as a means of political influence. This study presents evidence that willingness to participate in civil violence is fairly evenly distributed across income, educational, and occupational strata, thereby disconfirming the social marginality hypothesis. However, militancy involves nonviolent protest as well as civil violence. In order to explore the complexities of this concept, the authors use discriminant function analysis to demonstrate that, while violence propensity is related to age but not socioeconomic status, the willingness to participate in nonviolent protests is associated with higher socioeconomic status. A tentative explanation of this pattern of relationships is offered, with the more politically motivated militancy of higher status groups being linked to their desire to eliminate various forms of racial discrimination.


Socioeconomic Status Discriminant Function High Status Status Group Racial Discrimination 
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Copyright information

© Agathon Press, Inc 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. David Mason
    • 1
  • Jerry A. Murtagh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceMississippi State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Fort Valley State CollegeUSA

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