Explaining Racial Differences in Adolescent Violence

Paul E. Bellair, The Ohio State University
Thomas L. McNulty, University of Georgia

Explanation of black-white differences in street violence remains an unresolved and heavily contested issue in the social sciences. Two prominent and competing hypotheses dominate discourse on racial differences. In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray (1994) assert that disproportionate involvement among blacks is best understood to be a function of diminished cognitive ability. Most sociological approaches vigorously contest this explanation, positing instead that racial differences in street violence are primarily attributable to family and community-level socio-economic disadvantage. We estimate models designed to adjudicate between cognitive ability and socio-economic disadvantage using data drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent.

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Updated 05/20/2006