, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 1957–1977 | Cite as

Living on the Edge: Neighborhood Boundaries and the Spatial Dynamics of Violent Crime

  • Joscha LegewieEmail author


Neighborhood boundaries are a defining aspect of highly segregated urban areas. Yet, few studies examine the particular challenges and spatial processes that occur at the bordering region between two neighborhoods. Extending the growing literature on spatial interdependence, this article argues that neighborhood boundaries—defined as sharp changes in the racial or socioeconomic composition of neighborhoods—are a salient feature of the spatial structure with implications for violent crime and other outcomes. Boundaries lack the social control and cohesion of adjacent homogeneous areas, are contested between groups provoking intergroup conflict, and create opportunities for criminal behavior. This article presents evidence linking racial neighborhood boundaries to increased violent crime. The findings illustrate the importance of neighborhood boundaries for our understanding of spatial dimensions of population dynamics above and beyond the characteristics of neighborhoods.


Neighborhoods Neighborhood boundaries Crime Segregation Spatial inequality 



I thank Dave Brady, Rory Kramer, Merlin Schaeffer, and Patrick Sharkey for helpful comments and discussions. An example analysis with software to implement different boundary detection methods is available at (Legewie 2018). Replication materials for all results in this article are available online at

Supplementary material

13524_2018_708_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (169 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 168 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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