Non-Economic Institutions and Age-Stratified Homicide Offending: The Differential Effects of Secular and Religious Institutions on Adult and Juvenile Homicide

Matthew R. Lee, Mississippi State University
John P. Bartkowski, Mississippi State University

This analysis extends prior research on macro-level homicide rates by examining the role non-economic institutions play in depressing violent crime. Drawing from theoretical themes suggesting non-economic institutions buttress community integration and normative consensus, we propose an age-graded perspective on the link between non-economic institutions and violence. Specifically, we expect secular institutions such as political participation and social and civic organizations to provide protective effects for adults but not juveniles, primarily because juveniles rarely engage or are exposed to such institutions - and therefore derive no benefit from them. Conversely, we expect widespread participation in religious institutions to benefit both adults and juveniles, because young people do participate in such institutions, and when they do it is typically with their parents and family. Our analysis of county level adult and juvenile homicide offending patterns provides robust support for these expectations, suggesting that non-economic institutions play important -yet age-specific-roles in reducing interpersonal violence

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Updated 05/20/2006