Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Date of Defense

7-25-2011

Graduate Advisor

Janet L. Lauritsen, PhD.

Committee

Richardson, Lloyd I.

Finn-Aage Esbensen, Ph.D.

Karen Heimer, Ph.D.

Abstract

The relationship between economic deprivation and violent crime has been one of the most widely studied in the field of criminology, yet little is known about the impact of recent macroeconomic conditions and welfare reform policies on the poverty-youth violence relationship. Therefore, the current study utilizes data from the 1993-2004 National Crime Victimization Survey to assess the association between poverty and youth violent victimization trends variously disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and family structure, and the impact of welfare reform and macroeconomic conditions on this relationship. In addition, the potential impact of welfare reform on the individual-level relationship between poverty and youth’s risks for violence is examined. Results from macro-level analyses reveal an important association between recent youth poverty and violent victimization trends, but the findings overwhelmingly suggests that the relationship was not affected by changes in macroeconomic conditions and federal welfare policies. Significant impacts were found for certain groups of youth, most notably those in female headed families, while no significant impacts were found for Hispanic youth. Findings from survey-weighted logistic regression analyses also revealed a significant, direct association between poverty and youth’s violence risks that appeared to be consistent with a welfare reform effect, but the relationship was fully mediated by the ‘female headed family’ variable both before and after the passage of welfare reform--the sum of the evidence suggesting that family structure is a key contingency in the poverty-violence relationship. This study concludes with a discussion of key findings, methodological limitations, and recommendations for future research.

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