|Social disorganization, strain and cultural deviance theories all posit some central place for inequality in their explanations of crime. Contemporary American experience tells us that inequality is distributed in a patterned way, particularly in urban contexts. While sociologists and criminologists continue to debate the relative importance of class versus race inequality in explaining the development and entrenchment of distressed communities, some criminologists (Liska and Bellair 1995; Morenoff and Sampson 1997) have found reason to believe that violent crime plays a prominent role in explaining changes in the community-based patterns of urban inequality. Their findings suggest that traditional crime theories may be mis-specified. Disentangling the contributions of race, class and crime on structural inequalities is complicated by racialized perceptions of offenders and fear of crime. I extend this line of research by developing a conceptual framework that specifies a reciprocal relationship between racial inequality and crime. I use census tract data combined with police report data from St. Louis, MO, and Seattle, WA, for 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990 to investigate the viability of the proposed model. The conceptual basis for a reciprocal relationship between inequality and crime is reassessed in light of the findings.
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