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This article examines the impact of women's status on rates of violence against women using longitudinal data from the National Crime Survey and National Crime Victimization Survey for 40 U.S. metropolitan areas for the period 1980 to 2004. Drawing on feminist and routine activities perspectives, we specify hypotheses about the association between women's status and violent victimization, some of which predict different effects depending on whether the offender is a stranger, intimate, or known (nonintimate) other. Consistent with feminist and other perspectives, we find that absolute increases in women's labor force participation, income, and education are associated with decreases in intimate partner violence. Our findings also provide limited support for the backlash hypothesis by showing that increases in female labor participation relative to men are associated with increases in intimate partner violence but not with increases in violence by others. Consistent with routine activities theory, the data also indicate that absolute increases in female labor force participation are associated with increases in victimization by strangers and by known others. Furthermore, we find that absolute increases in female voter participation are associated with decreases in violence for all victim–offender relationship categories. The findings thus show that changes in the status of women have both positive and negative associations with violence victimization, and that comparative analyses of different types of violence are necessary for clarifying the sources of violence against women.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University 2: Department of Sociology and Public Policy Center, University of Iowa 3: Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri–St. Louis

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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