City Political Structures, Social Disorganization and Crime: A Study of 940 U.S. Cities in 1981 and 1991

Thomas D. Stucky, University of Iowa

Numerous studies have explored variation in crime rates across cities. Existing studies of city-level crime rates often rely on social disorganization theory, explicitly or implicitly. However, local institutional political structures are virtually absent from both city-level studies of crime and social disorganization theory. Drawing on insights from political resource theory, I propose a city-level model of crime that combines elements of social disorganization theory with research on local institutional politics, and addresses the role of local political structures in crime. Political resource theory focuses on how welfare policies result from actors pursuing their interests, based on the resources available to them. By identifying important actors and resources, this study begins to develop a theory of how city institutional politics affects social disorganization and crime. Demographic, political, and crime data were collected for cities with populations 25,000 or greater in 1981 and 1991. OLS techniques are used to test hypotheses regarding the interaction of local institutional political structures, social disorganization, and crime. Results suggest that social disorganization continues to be an important predictor of crime. However, the effect of structural indicators of social disorganization on crime depends on local institutional political structures.

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Updated 05/20/2006