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.
- Economic disadvantage
- Gang formation
- Gang membership
- Racial and ethnic heterogeneity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine