Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social-Disorganization Theory
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CitationSampson, Robert J., and W. Byron Groves. 1989. Community structure and crime: Testing social-disorganization theory. American Journal of Sociology 94, no. 4: 774-802. Reprinted in Frances Cullen and Velmer Burton, eds., Contemporary Criminological Theory. Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1994.
AbstractShaw and McKay's influential theory of community social disorganization has never been directly tested. To address this, a community-level theory that builds on Shaw and McKay's original model is formulated and tested. The general hypothesis is that low economic status, ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, and family disruption lead to community social disorganization, which, in turn, increases crime and delinquency rates. A community's level of social organization is measure in terms of local friendship networks, control of street-corner teenage peer groups, and prevalence of organizational participation. The model is first tested by analyzing data for 238 localities in Great Britain constructed from a 1982 national survey of 10,905 residents. The model is then replicated on an independent national sample of 11,030 residents of 300 British localities in 1984. Results from both surveys support the theory and show that between-community variations in social disorganization transmit much of the effect of community structural characteristics on rates of both criminal victimization and criminal offending.
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