Economics of Gang Life Revisited: Rethinking the Influence of Gang Activity on Individual and Group Economic Gain

Andrew V. Papachristos, The University of Chicago

The image of modern street gangs as a source of economic opportunity for youth in impoverished neighborhoods is a pervasive theme in the social disorganization and underclass literature. While extensive ethnographic studies have supported such claims, little systematic quantitative resarch has been conucted to test the ability to generalize from such fundings. By analyzing a unique dataset of N = 1,015 self-reported gang members, this paper examines some of the "economics" involved in gang life including but not limited to: (1) the influence of gang characteristics on group economic activities and earnings; (b) the impact of individual and group features on individual gang member potential economic earnings; and (c) the effects of various social contexts on the ability to participate in the underground economies. Data is that from the National Gang Crime Research Center's GANGECON project and is analyzed here at both individual and group levels.

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Updated 05/20/2006