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Violent victimization among males and economic conditions: The vulnerability of race and ethnic minorities

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Research Summary

In this article, we use data from the 1973 to 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to estimate previously unknown trends in serious nonfatal violent victimization for Latino, non-Latino Black, and non-Latino White males in the United States. Past research has shown that Blacks and Latinos have been more susceptible than Whites to financial hardship during economic downturns and that economic disadvantage is an important correlate of violence in cross-sectional analyses. If significant declines in the national economy contribute to increases in violence, then crime trends disaggregated by race and ethnicity should show greater changes among minorities during periods of economic downturn. Although rates of violence have declined for all groups, we find that trends for Latino and Black males are similar and closely follow changes in consumer sentiment. In contrast, trends for White males display fewer fluctuations coinciding with changes in economic conditions. Continued disaggregation shows that these patterns appear primarily in stranger violence and not in violence by known offenders. The patterns also suggest that the association between changing economic conditions and male victimization trends might have weakened in recent years.

Policy Implications

The findings raise concerns about the potential impact of recent economic changes on the risk for serious victimization, particularly among Blacks and Latinos. In light of the possible recent weakening of the relationship between economic changes and crime, future research should assess whether criminal justice policies and other factors moderate the relationship between economic conditions and victimization and use group-specific measures of violence so that important variability across race and ethnicity is not masked. These analyses also should be expanded to consider the potential effects on violence of government policies designed to alleviate poverty and unemployment.
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Keywords: economic conditions; ethnicity; policy; race; recession; trends; victimization; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri—St. Louis. 2: Professor of sociology and works at the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa.

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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