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Legal Cynicism and (Subcultural?) Tolerance of Deviance: The Neighborhood Context of Racial Differences

Robert J. Sampson and Dawn Jeglum Bartusch
Law & Society Review
Vol. 32, No. 4 (1998), pp. 777-804
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Law and Society Association
DOI: 10.2307/827739
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/827739
Page Count: 28
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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.
Legal Cynicism and (Subcultural?) Tolerance of Deviance: The Neighborhood Context of Racial Differences
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Abstract

We advance here a neighborhood-level perspective on racial differences in legal cynicism, dissatisfaction with police, and the tolerance of various forms of deviance. Our basic premise is that structural characteristics of neighbor-hoods explain variations in normative orientations about law, criminal justice, and deviance that are often confounded with the demographic characteristics of individuals. Using a multilevel approach that permits the decomposition of variance within and between neighborhoods, we tested hypotheses on a recently completed study of 8,782 residents of 343 neighborhoods in Chicago. Contrary to received wisdom, we find that African Americans and Latinos are less tolerant of deviance--including violence--than whites. At the same time, neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage display elevated levels of legal cynicism, dissatisfaction with police, and tolerance of deviance unaccounted for by sociodemographic composition and crime-rate differences. Concentrated disadvantage also helps explain why African Americans are more cynical about law and dissatisfied with the police. Neighborhood context is thus important for resolving the seeming paradox that estrangement from legal norms and agencies of criminal justice, especially by blacks, is compatible with the personal condemnation of deviance.

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