The differing effects of economic inequality on black and white rates of violence

Miles D. Harer, Darrell Steffensmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


We examine in this article the relationship between economic inequality and rates of violent crime of Macks and whites, using SMSA-level data for 1980 as compiled from raw arrest data on index violent crimes in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and from the 1980 census. The analysis is disaggregated by race and uses alternative measures of inequality (and poverty) to provide more theoretically appropriate indicators of income inequality, including measures of within-race inequality in addition to measures of overall inequality and between-race inequality. Controls are included for racial composition and other variables related to race and crime. We find that the effects of inequality differ sharply for blacks and whites. Inequality strongly affects white violence rates - high inequality is associated with high white arrest rates for the violent crimes. However, inequality has a weak effect on black violence rates. The theoretical and research implications of our findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1054
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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