Absolute Deprivation, Relative Deprivation, and Crime: A Change-Score Analysis of Structural Covariates of Crime

Open Access
Becker, Jacob H.
Graduate Program:
Crime, Law and Justice
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 15, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Derek Allen Kreager, Thesis Advisor
  • inequality
  • poverty
  • change
  • crime
  • relative deprivation
  • absolute deprivation
  • metropolitan counties
  • 1990
  • 2000
In this thesis, I examine the relationships between absolute deprivation, relative deprivation, and crime rates in metropolitan counties in and between 1990 and 2000. Based on existing theoretical and empirical research, I investigate several questions. First, are the relationships between absolute and relative deprivation and crime significant, and is one type of deprivation a better indicator of crime than the other? Are the relationships stable after controlling for other theoretically relevant structural conditions? Finally, are the relationships the same at two time points, as well as over time? I employ cross-sectional analyses of the static relationships in 1990 and 2000 and change-score analyses of the relationships over the two decennial periods. The latter analyses add to the limited body of research examining the dynamic relationships between deprivation and crime. I measure county-level structural characteristics based on 1990 and 2000 Census data and use ordinary least-squares regression models to predict total, violent, property, and homicide crime rates. I then regress differences in crime rates from 1990 to 2000 on differences in the independent variables to examine the dynamic relationships between structural conditions and crime. The results of the cross-sectional analyses universally support the conclusion that absolute deprivation has a stronger association with crime than does relative deprivation. However, the change-score analyses indicate that not only do changes in levels of relative deprivation have stronger relationships than changes in absolute deprivation with shifts in crime levels, but that these relationships are unexpectedly negative. The implications of these results for theory and research are discussed.