Title: Social (Dis)Organization and Racially Motivated Crime in Chicago
Name: Christopher J. Lyons
Department of Sociology
University of New Mexico
MSC05 3080
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1166
Year: 2006
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary: Although interest in hate crime continues to grow, we know little about the etiology of racially motivated crime. This project joins a long tradition of “Chicago-style” research by focusing on the role of community social organization in shaping crime—in this case, hate crimes against whites and blacks. As the impact of racially motivated crime may be felt most acutely at the community-level, the project asked how and why antiblack and antiwhite hate crimes vary across Chicago communities.

Drawing on a unique assembly of data, including seven years of hate crime and conventional crime reports from the Chicago Police Department, two decades of census data, and survey data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), I evaluated various perspectives on the social ecology of interracial conflict. Resource competition/racial threat theories predict more hate crime in communities with large outgroup proportions or in areas experiencing economic downturns; the defended community perspective predicts more racial hate crime in relatively organized communities with resources to exclude racial outsiders; and social disorganization theory posits more hate crime (and crime in general) in communities with low levels of economic and social capital. Deriving hypotheses from each perspective, I tested the association between racial hate crime and (1) racial composition, patterns of integration and gentrification, and community identity/attachment, (2) community social and economic capital (e.g. macroeconomic conditions, informal social control, social cohesion), and (3) conventional non-bias crime.

Negative binomial models controlling for spatial autocorrelation reveal that antiblack incidents are more common in economically and socially organized communities, especially white communities experiencing recent in-migration of blacks. Ironically, the same structural features that enable communities to control conventional crime (affluence, informal social control) lead to higher incidence of antiblack hate crime. These patterns provide support for a defended community’s perspective and warn of the dangers associated with organizing against crime without tolerance for racial diversity.

In contrast, black-on-white hate crimes are more common in traditionally disorganized, disadvantaged, and racially heterogeneous communities with high rates of conventional crime. Although differences between antiblack and antiwhite hate crimes patterns should be interpreted with caution, the results suggest distinct mechanisms generating anti-minority and anti-majority hate crime.
Bibliography: Lyons, Christopher J. “Community (Dis)Organization and Racially Motivated Crime.” American Journal of Sociology 113(3) (2007): 815-863.

Lyons, Christopher J. “Defending Turf: Racial Demographics and Hate Crime Against Blacks and Whites.” Social Forces (2008).