Divergent Social Worlds

Divergent Social Worlds: Neighborhood Crime and the Racial-Spatial Divide

Ruth D. Peterson
Lauren J. Krivo
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  • Book Info
    Divergent Social Worlds
    Book Description:

    More than half a century after the first Jim Crow laws were dismantled, the majority of urban neighborhoods in the United States remain segregated by race. The degree of social and economic advantage or disadvantage that each community experiences—particularly its crime rate—is most often a reflection of which group is in the majority. As Ruth Peterson and Lauren Krivo note in Divergent Social Worlds, “Race, place, and crime are still inextricably linked in the minds of the public.” This book broadens the scope of single-city, black/white studies by using national data to compare local crime patterns in five racially distinct types of neighborhoods. Peterson and Krivo meticulously demonstrate how residential segregation creates and maintains inequality in neighborhood crime rates. Based on the authors’ groundbreaking National Neighborhood Crime Study (NNCS), Divergent Social Worlds provides a more complete picture of the social conditions underlying neighborhood crime patterns than has ever before been drawn. The study includes economic, social, and local investment data for nearly nine thousand neighborhoods in eighty-seven cities, and the findings reveal a pattern across neighborhoods of racialized separation among unequal groups. Residential segregation reproduces existing privilege or disadvantage in neighborhoods—such as adequate or inadequate schools, political representation, and local business—increasing the potential for crime and instability in impoverished non-white areas yet providing few opportunities for residents to improve conditions or leave. And the numbers bear this out. Among urban residents, more than two-thirds of all whites, half of all African Americans, and one-third of Latinos live in segregated local neighborhoods. More than 90 percent of white neighborhoods have low poverty, but this is only true for one quarter of black, Latino, and minority areas. Of the five types of neighborhoods studied, African American communities experience violent crime on average at a rate five times that of their white counterparts, with violence rates for Latino, minority, and integrated neighborhoods falling between the two extremes. Divergent Social Worlds lays to rest the popular misconception that persistently high crime rates in impoverished, non-white neighborhoods are merely the result of individual pathologies or, worse, inherent group criminality. Yet Peterson and Krivo also show that the reality of crime inequality in urban neighborhoods is no less alarming. Separate, the book emphasizes, is inherently unequal. Divergent Social Worlds lays the groundwork for closing the gap—and for next steps among organizers, policymakers, and future researchers.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-677-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-xii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. Foreword: America’s Deadly and Duplicitous Divide
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    John Hagan

    Ruth Peterson and Lauren Krivo’s unprecedented study of nearly ten thousand American urban neighborhoods reveals a nation racially divided, with violent and deadly consequences. The depth and detail of Peterson and Krivo’s findings are particularly disturbing because while the circumstances of the racial divide in America have changed in some notable ways over time, the violent consequences nonetheless reflect a continuity that has produced a mounting toll for African and Latino Americans. The result is a nation still dangerously divided by race long after W. E. B. Du Bois (1899/1973) warned that violence was only one part of the reality...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  6. Chapter 1 Introduction: One Hundred Years and Still Counting
    (pp. 1-11)

    Race, place, and crime are inextricably linked, both in actuality and in the minds of the public, in the contemporary United States. The image of the crime-ridden ghetto is prevalent in popular cultural portrayals on television, in movies, and in daily news reports (Bjornstrom et al. 2010; Russell 1998; Russell-Brown 2004). This imagery conveys the notion that African American neighborhoods are to be feared and avoided while white communities are havens of safety; Latino and other nonwhite areas are less well known but potentially risky. The fact that the vast majority of residents of African American and other minority neighborhoods...

  7. Chapter 2 Racial Structure, Segregation, and Crime
    (pp. 12-49)

    Violent crime in a predominantly African American neighborhood on the East Side of Columbus, Ohio, was a whopping 22.9 per 1,000 residents in 2000, a rate that was over twice the citywide average of 9.8. During that year, residents of this moderately poor neighborhood with nearly 4,000 residents fell victim to seventy-eight reported violent incidents, including two murders and twelve rapes.¹ Just six miles away in a moderately poor white community, the picture was somewhat rosier. There the violent crime rate was less than half the rate in the African American neighborhood at just 10.6 offenses per 1,000 population. The...

  8. Chapter 3 Divergent Social Worlds
    (pp. 50-70)

    The stark reality of U.S. society is that whites, African Americans, and Latinos live in strikingly different social worlds. These divergent communities of color reflect the entrenched inequalities found in a racially structured society in which whites are highly privileged compared to other populations. Groups of varying colors commonly live in separate residential areas that are far from similar in key social conditions that put communities at peril for, or protect them from, a host of social problems. In this chapter, we provide a portrait of white, African American, Latino, minority, and integrated neighborhoods in large U.S. cities that documents...

  9. Chapter 4 The Links Between Racialized Community Structures and Crime
    (pp. 71-90)

    Are the divergent social worlds of racially distinct neighborhoods the source of dramatic racial and ethnic neighborhood inequality in violent and property crime? Is crime so low in white neighborhoods because of their enormous socioeconomic privilege? Are the often hyperdisadvantaged conditions of African American local areas responsible for their heightened violent and property offending? Is crime somewhat lower in Latino and minority neighborhoods than in African American ones because the presence of immigrants serves as a countervailing force to high disadvantage? Are integrated areas a middle ground in crime because they fall in the middle in their social and economic...

  10. Chapter 5 The Spatial Context of Criminal Inequality
    (pp. 91-109)

    The basic framework presented here emphasizes that ethnic and racial differentials in crime patterns are rooted in the racial inequality embedded in distinct conditions found across and within urban neighborhoods. The evidence is consistent with this framework whether all neighborhoods are studied or analyses are restricted to apparently more comparable low-poverty areas. However, notable gaps in violence remain unaccounted for by racialized community conditions; this is much less the case for property offenses. In this chapter, we acknowledge that the focus on differentiation in structural conditionswithinsegregated white, African American, and other nonwhite neighborhoods may be too limited. Such...

  11. Chapter 6 Conclusion: Implications of the Racial-Spatial Divide
    (pp. 110-126)

    In chapter 2, we began our discussion with examples of crime rates for racially distinct neighborhoods in two U.S. cities, Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California. The white, African American, and Latino communities in each of these cities are not far apart physically, but in a manner of speaking, they are worlds apart in their levels of crime. The examples of disparate crime patterns in a few neighborhoods in Columbus and Los Angeles were provided to illustrate the reality of urban life in cities across the United States. Astoundingly, the reasons for this stark variation in crime across white, African...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 127-134)
  13. References
    (pp. 135-152)
  14. Index
    (pp. 153-158)