Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • María B. Vélez (a1)


In the prior article in this volume, Robert Sampson and colleagues (2018) take theoretical and empirical stock of a framework they presented twenty years ago. They find broad empirical support for its core tenets. Differences in disadvantage explain most, if not all, observed gaps in violent crime between Black and White neighborhoods; disadvantage also operates similarly to foster crime in Black and White areas. The authors also lament the limited research on the key intervening mechanism of community social organization, particularly its cultural and political sources, that links disadvantage to crime. I have two primary goals in commenting on this article. First, in keeping with their assessment, I provide my take on their agenda for extending the framework beyond the Black-White divide, giving greater attention to the political sources of community social organization, and considering reciprocal relationships between crime, race, and disadvantage. Second, I elaborate on how my views differ from Sampson and colleagues’ regarding strategies to empirically validate the racial invariance thesis, the breadth of support for the thesis beyond its core tenets, and the role of culture. I provide these critiques to encourage further work exploring the explanatory power of Sampson and colleagues’ thesis, and, to thereby foster a better understanding of enduring inequities in violent crime between racialized minority populations and Whites. Without their ecologically-based approach, we run the risk of essentializing minorities as criminogenic, like recent work espousing cultural (devoid of structural) and biological (devoid of social) explanations for the race-crime link.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: María B. Vélez, Department of Sociology, University of New Mexico, 915 Roma NE Ste. 1103, Albuquerque, NM 87131. E-mail:


Hide All
Anderson, Elijah (1999). Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: Norton Press.
Baumer, Eric P., Wolff, Kevin T., and Arnio, Ashley N. (2012). A Multicity Neighborhood Analysis of Foreclosure and Crime. Social Science Quarterly, 93(3): 577601.
Bellair, Paul E. (2000). Informal Surveillance and Street Crime: A Complex Relationship. Criminology, 38(1): 137167.
Brunson, Rod K. (2007). ‘Police Don’t Like Black People’: African-American Young Men’s Accumulated Police Experiences. Criminology and Public Policy, 6(1): 71101.
Burch, Traci (2013). Trading Democracy for Justice: Criminal Convictions and the Decline of Neighborhood Political Participation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Burchfield, Keri B., and Silver, Eric (2013). Collective Efficacy and Crime in Los Angeles Neighborhoods: Implications for the Latino Paradox. Sociological Inquiry, 83(1): 154176.
Clear, Todd R., Rose, Dina R., Waring, Elin, and Scully, Kristen (2003). Coercive Mobility and Crime: A Preliminary Examination of Concentrated Incarceration and Social Disorganization. Justice Quarterly, 20(1): 3364.
Duck, Waverly (2015). No Way Out: Precarious Living in the Shadow of Poverty and Drug Dealing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Hernandez, Alma, Vélez, María B., and Lyons, Christopher (2016). The Racial Invariance Thesis and Neighborhood Crime: Beyond the Black-White Divide. Race and Justice, 8(3): 216243
Hipp, John R. (2010). A Dynamic View of Neighborhoods: The Reciprocal Relationship between Crime and Neighborhood Structural Characteristics. Social Problems, 57(2): 205230.
Hipp, John R. (2011). Violent Crime, Mobility Decisions, and Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Transition. Social Problems, 58(3): 410432.
Immergluck, Dan, and Smith, Geoff (2006). The Impact of Single-Family Mortgage Foreclosures on Neighborhood Crime. Housing Studies, 21(6): 851866.
Krivo, Lauren J., Vélez, María B., Lyons, Christopher J., Phillips, Jason, and Sabbath, Elizabeth (2018). Race, Crime, and the Changing Fortunes of Urban Neighborhoods, 1999–2013. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 15(1): .
Krupnick, Joseph C., and Winship, Christopher J. (2015). Keeping Up the Front: How Young Black Men Avoid Street Violence in the Inner City. In Patterson, Orlando and Fosse, Ethan (Eds.), The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth, pp. 311350. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Logan, John R., and Zhang, Charles (2010). Global Neighborhoods: New Pathways to Diversity and Separation. American Journal of Sociology, 115(4): 10691109.
Lyons, Christopher J., Vélez, María B., and Santoro, Wayne A. (2013). Neighborhood Immigration, Violence, and City-Level Immigrant Political Opportunities. American Sociological, Review 78(4): 604632.
Matsueda, Ross, Drakulich, Kevin, and Kubrin, Charis E. (2006). Race and Neighborhood Codes of Violence. In Peterson, Ruth, Krivo, Lauren J., and Hagan, John (Eds.), The Many Colors of Crime: Inequalities of Race, Ethnicities and Crime in America, pp. 334356. New York: New York University Press.
McNulty, Thomas L. (2001). Assessing the Race-Violence Relationship at the Macro Level: The Assumption of Racial Invariance and the Problem of Restricted Distributions. Criminology, 39(2): 467490.
Morenoff, Jeffrey D., and Sampson, Robert J. (1997). Violent Crime and the Spatial Dynamics of Neighborhood Transition: Chicago, 1970–1990. Social Forces, 76(1): 3164.
Owens, Ann, and Sampson, Robert J. (2013). Community Well-Being and the Great Recession. A Great Recession Brief, Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, Stanford University.
Patterson, Orlando (2014). Making Sense of Culture. Annual Review of Sociology, 40: 130.
Peterson, Ruth D., and Krivo, Lauren J. (2010). Divergent Social Worlds: Neighborhood Crime and the Racial Spatial Divide. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Ramey, David. M. (2013). Immigrant Revitalization and Neighborhood Violent Crime in Established and New Destination Cities. Social Forces, 92(2): 597629.
Rios, Victor M. (2011). Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. New York: New York University Press.
Sampson, Robert J., and Bartusch, Dawn Jeglum (1998). Legal Cynicism and (Subcultural?) Tolerance of Deviance. Law and Society Review, 32(4): 777804.
Sampson, Robert J., and Wilson, William Julius (1995). In Hagan, John and Peterson, Ruth D. (Eds.), Crime and Inequality, pp. 3754. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Sampson, Robert J., Wilson, William J., and Katz, Hanna (2018). Reassessing “Toward a Theory of Race, Crime, and Urban Inequality:” Enduring and New Challenges in 21st Century America. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 15(1): .
Saporu, Darlene F., Patton, Charles L., Krivo, Lauren J., and Peterson, Ruth D. (2011). Differential Benefits? Crime and Community Investments in Racially Distinct Neighborhoods. Race and Justice, 1(1): 79102.
Shaw, Clifford, and McKay, Henry (1942). Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Skogan, Wesley G. (1990). Disorder and Decline: Crime and the Spiral of Decay in American Neighborhoods. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Squires, Gregory D., and Kubrin, Charis Elizabeth (2006). Privileged Places: Race, Residence, and the Structure of Opportunity. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Vélez, María B., and Lyons, Christopher J. (2014). Making or Breaking Neighborhoods. Criminology & Public Policy, 13(2): 225235.
Vélez, María B., Lyons, Christopher, and Santoro, Wayne A. (2015). The Political Context of the Percent Black-Neighborhood Violence Link: A Multilevel Analysis. Social Problems, 62(1): 93119.
Weitzer, Ronald, and Tuch, Steven A. (2006). Race and Policing in America: Conflict and Reform. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
The Woodstock Institute (2008). Paying More for the American Dream: The Subprime Shakeout and Its Impact on Lower-Income and Minority Communities. Chicago, IL: Woodstock Institute.
The Woodstock Institute (2009). Paying More for the American Dream III: Promoting Responsible Lending to Lower-Income Communities and Communities of Color. Chicago, IL: Woodstock Institute.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed