POVERTY, NOT RACE, TIED TO HIGH CRIME RATES IN URBAN COMMUNITIES

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Violent crime rates have more to do with poverty levels in a neighborhood than with the race of local residents, new research has found.

A study of Columbus neighborhoods found that violent crime rates in extremely disadvantaged white neighborhoods were very similar to rates in comparable Black neighborhoods.

The violent crime rate in highly disadvantaged Black areas was 22 per 1,000 residents, not much different from the 20 per 1,000 rate in similar white communities.

There are still many people who mistakenly believe there is something about Black neighborhoods that make them more violent and prone to crime, said Lauren Krivo, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

Our research shows that neighborhoods with the most crime tend to be those with the highest rates of poverty and other types of disadvantage -- regardless of whether they are predominantly Black or white.

In this study, overall rates of violence were nearly three times as high in Black neighborhoods as in white neighborhoods. But thats because Black neighborhoods are much more likely than white ones to be highly disadvantaged, she said.

 

Krivo conducted the study with Ruth Peterson, a professor of sociology at Ohio State. Their study was published in the current issue of the journal Social Forces.

 

The researchers examined crime rates for 1989 to 1991 in 177 census tracts in Columbus. They separated the census tracts -- which are the units researchers use to approximate neighborhoods -- into those with low poverty rates (less than 20 percent), high rates (20 to 40 percent) and extreme rates (more than 40 percent). They also separated the census tracts into those that were predominantly white or Black (at least 70 percent of one race).

 

Along with poverty rates, the researchers also compared neighborhoods on other measures of disadvantage: levels of male joblessness, female-headed families, and professionals living in the community. They then calculated a disadvantage index that combined all of these measures.

 

Violent crime rates were lowest in those neighborhoods with low disadvantage, regardless of whether they were predominantly Black or white. Extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods had violent crime rates that were 16.3 per 1000 higher than rates in low disadvantage neighborhoods.

 

The results showed that extremely disadvantaged Black neighborhoods still had slightly higher violent crime rates than did similar white neighborhoods. One possible reason may be that the Black neighborhoods in this study are still more disadvantaged than the comparable white neighborhoods, Krivo said.

 

In addition, the highly disadvantaged Black neighborhoods were more likely than the white neighborhoods to be grouped together, which may intensify the negative effects.

 

The researchers also looked at property crimes in the study. The results were similar in that extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods -- both white and Black -- had comparable rates of crime. However, in the case of property crimes, white neighborhoods had slightly higher rates than did Black communities.

 

This may be because residents in the Black neighborhoods are more impoverished, and there is less to steal, Krivo said.

 

Krivo said this study was conducted in Columbus because it has relatively large numbers of both white and Black high-poverty neighborhoods, which made comparisons possible. Many large cities have very few impoverished white neighborhoods, she said.

 

The results show a clear connection between poverty and crime, according to Krivo.

 

Disadvantage has the same patterns of effects on crime in white and Black neighborhoods. Black urban neighborhoods tend to have higher crime rates than the typical white city neighborhood, but this is largely because there are more Black communities that are highly disadvantaged.

 

 

Contact: Lauren Krivo, (614) 292-7107; Krivo.1@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu


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