The Social Structure of Gang Homicide in Chicago

Andrew V. Papachristos, The University of Chicago

Gang-related homicides in Chicago have a highly structured social form. Associations and patterns of conflict among gangs often produce long-term social networks which can be used to explain differential homicide rates. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, this paper will review gang-related homicide trends in Chicago and demonstrate how patterns of social networks among and between gangs directly contribute to patterns of gang-related homicides. In short, traditional social disorganization and neighborhood level variables, such as density and heterogeneity, as well as spatial characteristics of neighborhoods create different types of social networks among gangs. Preliminary findings suggest that social social networks among Black gangs in Chicago are extremely dense and interconnected whereas similar networks among Hispanic gangs are diffuse and isolated. Holding other variables constant, dense and concentrated gang networks are more strongly associated with higher rates of gang-related homicide and appear to be the result of the physical and social concentration of resources and populations. These patterns hold over time and at different levels of analysis.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006