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Urban Black Violence: The Effect of Male Joblessness and Family Disruption

Robert J. Sampson
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 93, No. 2 (Sep., 1987), pp. 348-382
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2779588
Page Count: 35
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Urban Black Violence: The Effect of Male Joblessness and Family Disruption
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Abstract

This paper examines the relationships among unemployment, crime, and family disruption in the black "underclass." The main hypothesis tested is that the effect of black adult male joblessness on black crime is mediated largely through its effects on family disruption. The study examines race-specific rates of robbery and homicide by juveniles and adults in over 150 U.S. cities in 1980. The results show that the scarcity of employed black men increases the prevalence of families headed by females in black communities. In turn, black family disruption substantially increases the rates of black murder and robbery, especially by juveniles. These effects are independent of income, region, race and age composition, density, city size, and welfare benefits and are similar to the effects of white family disruption on white violence. The paper concludes that there is nothing inherent in black culture that is conducive to crime. Rather, persistently high rates on black crime appear to stem from the structural linkages among unemployment, economic deprivation, and family disruption in urban black communities.

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