Racial and ethnic heterogeneity, economic disadvantage, and gangs: A macro-level study of gang membership in Urban America

David C. Pyrooz, Andrew M. Fox, Scott Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


There is a lack of macro-level gang research. The present study addresses this shortcoming by providing a theoretically informed analysis of gang membership in large US cities. More specifically, our goal is to determine whether racial and ethnic heterogeneity conditions the relationship between economic disadvantage and gang membership. Three separate sources of data are used in this study: U.S. Census 2000, Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Services 2000, and National Youth Gang Survey 2002-2006. A series of weighted least-squares regression models are estimated, finding that both economic disadvantage and racial and ethnic heterogeneity exhibit independent and additive effects on gang membership. In addition, the results show that racial and ethnic heterogeneity has a conditioning relationship with economic disadvantage. Furthermore, our expanded operationalization of the Blau heterogeneity measure indicates that prior research may have underestimated the effects of heterogeneity. The authors discuss these findings in the context of existing gang research and offer directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-892
Number of pages26
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2010



  • Blau
  • Economic disadvantage
  • Gang formation
  • Gang membership
  • Racial and ethnic heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

Cite this