18 Crim. Just. Rev. 182 (1993)
Poverty, Income Inequality, and Violent Crime: A Meta-Analysis of Recent Aggregate Data Studies

handle is hein.journals/crmrev18 and id is 192 raw text is: Criminal Justice Review                                 1993 College of Public and Urban Affairs
Volume 18, Number 2, Autumn 1993                                      Georgia State University
POVERTY, INCOME INEQUALITY,
AND VIOLENT CRIME:
A META-ANALYSIS
OF RECENT AGGREGATE DATA STUDIES*
Ching-Chi Hsieh and M. D. Pugh
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, several important reviews of the literature failed to
establish a clear consensus on the relationship between economic conditions and violent
crime. The research presented here applies the procedures of meta-analysis to 34 aggregate
data studies reporting on violent crime, poverty, and income inequality. These studies
reported a total of 76 zero-order correlation coefficients for all measures of violent crime
with either poverty or income inequality. Of the 76 coefficients, all but 2, or 97 percent, were
positive. Of the positive coefficients, nearly 80 percent were of at least moderate strength
(>.25). It is concluded that poverty and income inequality are each associated with violent
crime. The analysis, however, shows considerable variation in the estimated size of the
relationships and suggests that homicide and assault may be more closely associated with
poverty or income inequality than are rape and robbery.
Since 1980 a large body of research has been published on poverty,
income inequality, and violent crime (assault, homicide, rape, and
robbery). Some of these publications are largely or exclusively theoretical
(Currie, 1985; Tittle, 1983), but the majority are empirical studies, and
with a few important exceptions (Elliot & Huizinga, 1983) many of these
recent works make use of cross-sectional, aggregate data at the national or
subnational level of analysis. Today, there is a growing consensus that
resource deprivation in general is an underlying cause of violent crime
(Land, McCall, & Cohen, 1990; Messner & Golden, 1992) and that
resource deprivation is especially associated with assault and homicide
(McCall, Land, & Cohen, 1992). Assuming that poverty and income
inequality are each an indicator of resource deprivation, a review of the
previous research using the methods of meta-analysis should show evidence
that poverty and income inequality are each correlated with violent crime
and that these correlations are especially robust with respect to assault and
homicide. Meta-analysis is intended as a way of establishing such basic
facts, from which theories can be built (Hunter & Schmidt, 1990; Wells &
Rankin, 1991).
*This article is a revised version of a paper that was presented at the annual meeting of the American
Society of Criminology in San Francisco, California, on November 20, 1991.

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