The Utility of Institutional Anomie Theory for Predicting Homicide Rates Across Macrosocial Units of Analysis Within the United States

Michael O. Maume, Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington
Matthew R. Lee, Mississippi State University

ABSTRACT
Messner and Rosenfeld's institutional anomie theory is grounded in the assumption that relatively higher crime rates in the United States are due to 1) the overbearing influence of economic motives and institutions in society, and 2) the subjugation of all other institutions to cultural economic interests (e.g., the American Dream). The goal of converting this theory into a viable research agenda has proved challenging, but initial tests suggest the theory deserves further research attention. Our purposes in this challenging, but initial tests suggest the theory deserves further research attention. Our purposes in this paper are twofold. First, we seek to test the utility of institutional anomie theory for predicting crime rates across aggregate units within the U.S. (e.g., cities); in particular, the theory's emphasis on instrumental crime will be put to the test by comparing instrumental and expressive homicides. We will employ data from the FBI's Supplemental Homicide Reports to differentiate homicides by type, as well as a number of other data sources relevant to economic and non-economic local institutions. A seconde purpose will be to explore whether the theory might usefully be integrated with other macro-criminological theories, as well as neo-institutional theory, to expedite further tests of the theory.

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Updated 05/20/2006