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Race and Involvement in Common Law Personal Crimes

Michael J. Hindelang
American Sociological Review
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Feb., 1978), pp. 93-109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094764
Page Count: 17
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Race and Involvement in Common Law Personal Crimes
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Abstract

Most contemporary sociological theories of crime predict that blacks will be overrepresented among arrestees in common law personal crimes. These theories differ, however, in the extent to which this overrepresentation is attributed to disproportionate involvement in criminal offenses vs. criminal justice system selection biases. Studies that have relied upon official data have generally supported the differential involvement hypothesis, whereas studies relying on self-report techniques generally have supported the differential selection hypothesis. National victimization survey data on victims' reports of racial characteristics of offenders are introduced as a third measurement technique in order to shed additional light on this controversy. These data for rape, robbery, and assault, are generally consistent with official data on arrestees and support the differential involvement hypothesis. Some evidence of differential selection for criminal justice processing is found; however, most of the racial disproportionality in arrest data is shown by victimization survey data to be attributable to the substantially greater involvement of blacks in the common law personal crimes of rape, robbery, and assault. These results suggest that traditional admonitions against using arrest data as an index of involvement in these crimes may be overly cautious. In fact, the results imply that more caution should attend the use of self-report data in this vein and that more attention should be given to sampling and instrument concerns in self-report techniques. As currently used, the method may not be adequate for assessing the correlates of serious illegal conduct. The results also suggest that research emphasis be placed on those theories, such as the subcultural and differential opportunity perspectives, which attempt to explain differential racial involvement in these common law personal crimes.

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