Trajectories of Change in Suburban Violent Crime Rates: The Influence of Demography, Social Organization, and Spatial Disadvantage

Christopher R. Browning, The Ohio State University
Seth L. Feinberg, The Ohio State University

ABSTRACT
Models of crime trends in the United States typically focus on the largest cities, metropolitan areas, or higher-level units of analysis like counties or states. We extend these efforts by examining how crime and victimization patterns are spread among much smaller places. Specifically, we estimate hierarchical latent growth curve models to describe and explain baseline differences in suburban crime rates and variation in rates of change over time for a sample of 122 Chicago suburbs (all with populations greater than 10,000). We draw from both official crime data over the decade of the 1990s as well as survey-based measures of victimization. Findings offer evidence of significant variation in baseline rates of violent crime as well as linear and quadratic time trends suggesting that spatial inequality in crime rates across suburbs (in 1990) was accompanied by differences in the degree to which suburbs benefited from declines in crime during the 1990s. The paper explores the extent to which social disorganization measures-concentrated disadvantage, residential stability, ethnic heterogeneity, population density, and community attachment-as well as spatial proximity to disadvantage explain differences in baseline rates and trajectories of change in violent crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006