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This article assesses the extent to which the infant mortality rate might be treated as a “proxy” for poverty in research on cross-national variation in homicide rates. We have assembled a pooled, cross-sectional time-series data set for 16 advanced nations from the 1993–2000 period that includes standard measures of infant mortality and homicide and contains information on the following commonly used “income-based” poverty measures: a measure intended to reflect “absolute” deprivation and a measure intended to reflect “relative” deprivation. With these data, we assess the criterion validity of the infant mortality rate with reference to the two income-based poverty measures. Also, we estimate the effects of the various indicators of disadvantage on homicide rates in regression models, thereby assessing construct validity. The results reveal that the infant mortality rate is correlated more strongly with “relative poverty” than with “absolute poverty,” although much unexplained variance remains. In the regression models shown here, the measure of infant mortality and the relative poverty measure yield significant positive effects on homicide rates, whereas the absolute poverty measure does not exhibit any significant effects. The results of our analyses suggest that it would be premature to dismiss relative deprivation in cross-national research on homicide, and that disadvantage is conceptualized and measured best as a multidimensional construct.
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Keywords: cross-national homicide; infant mortality; poverty; validity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University at Albany, State University of New York

Publication date: 2010-05-01

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