Reassessing Trends In Black Violent Crime, 1980-2008: Sorting Out The "Hispanic Effect" In Uniform Crime Reports Arrests, National Crime Victimization Survey Offender Estimates, And U.S. Prisoner Counts

Darrell Steffensmeier, Ben Feldmeyer, Casey T. Harris, Jeffery T. Ulmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent studies suggest a decline in the relative Black effect on violent crime in recent decades and interpret this decline as resulting from greater upward mobility among African Americans during the past several decades. However, other assessments of racial stratification in American society suggest at least as much durability as change in Black social mobility since the 1980s. Our goal is to assess how patterns of racial disparity in violent crime and incarceration have changed from 1980 to 2008. We argue that prior studies showing a shrinking Black share of violent crime might be in error because of reliance on White and Black national crime statistics that are confounded with Hispanic offenders, whose numbers have been increasing rapidly and whose violence rates are higher than that of Whites but lower than that of Blacks. Using 1980-2008 California and New York arrest data to adjust for this "Hispanic effect" in national Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data, we assess whether the observed national decline in racial disparities in violent crime is an artifact of the growth in Hispanic populations and offenders. Results suggest that little overall change has occurred in the Black share of violent offending in both UCR and NCVS estimates during the last 30 years. In addition, racial imbalances in arrest versus incarceration levels across the index violent crimes are both small and comparably sized across the study period. We conclude by discussing the consistency of these findings with trends in economic and social integration of Blacks in American society during the past 50 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-251
Number of pages55
JournalCriminology
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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