Revisiting the Impact of Unemployment and Family Disruption on Black Violent Crime: A Comparison of UCR and NIBRS

Wendy C. Regoeczi, Cleveland State University
Roland Chilton, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Among studies trying t assess the extent to which structural conditions in society explain variations in criminal offending across demographic subgroups, Sampson's 1987 study of the relationships among unemployment, family composition, and two forms of violent crime charged to black and white offenders stands out. However, he had to rely on estimates of offending behavior for racial subgroups that were calculated using offenses known and age-, race-, and sex-specific arrest data collected in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. In this paper we examine relationships among the same sets of variables using both modified UCR arrest rates and offending rates computed using data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System for 1999-2001. In the process we assess the extent to which relationships among unemployment, family disruption, and violent crime reported for 1980-82 have changed or persisted over time. We discuss theoretical questions concerning the impact of structural conditions on violent crime and their ramifications for the development of crime reduction policies.

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Updated 05/20/2006