Crime and the Racial Divide: Convergence and Divergence in City-Level Arrest Rates for African Americans and Whites, 1960 to 1998

Gary LaFree, University of Maryland at College Park
Kriss A. Drass, University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Eric Baumer, University of Missouri - St. Louis

ABSTRACT
The gap between African American and white arrest rates has long been one of the most troubling aspects of American life. In recent years, a racial minority that constitutes 12 percent of the United States population has accounted for more than half of total UCR arrests in several categories of street crime. Because of the importance of this issue, it has generated a good deal of research. However, nearly all of the research examining race and crime to date has been based on cross-sectional designs. In this paper we use econometric methods to test for convergence between black and white murder, robbery and burglary annual arrest trends in the 300 largest U.S. cities from 1960 to 1998. Despite substantial changes in black-white relationships during the past four decades, we find limited evidence of convergence between black and white arrest rates over time. We discuss the implications of the results for theory and social policy.

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Updated 05/20/2006