Community, Inequality, and Crime

Graham C. Ousey and Matthew R. Lee

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Community, Inequality, and Crime

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime



One of the most exciting developments in the field of criminology is the emergence of studies that seek to explain variation in crime rates across aggregate social communities. These studies have an underlying theoretical theme: crime rates across communities are strongly correlated with structural inequality, or the stratification of communities on several key socioeconomic dimensions. This article reviews the current state of knowledge on the link between structural inequality and crime rates across communities. Specifically, it looks at theory and research that examines whether and how structural inequality affects crime rates in macro-level social communities such as cities, metropolitan areas, counties, and neighborhoods. It also discusses the notion that dimensions of structural inequality increase crime rates by increasing criminal motivation among those individuals who directly experience deprivation, and that such inequality contributes to crime by creating community-level differences in the extent of collective informal social control.

Keywords: structural inequality; crime; crime rates; social control; deprivation; criminal motivation; social communities; neighborhoods; criminology

Article.  7572 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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