Document Type


Publication Date


Subject: LCSH



Criminology and Criminal Justice


Building upon and expanding the previous research into structural determinants of homicide, particularly the work of Land, McCall and Cohen (1990), the current paper uses county-level data to disentangle three major influences on homicide rates: poverty, racial composition, and the disruption of family structure. Theoretical foundations of these influences are laid out, and the effects of the three factors on homicide rates are tested at two time periods as far removed from one another as possible: 1950-1960 and 1995-2005. All major variables typically used in homicide research are included as controls. The results of analyses show that the effects of the Big Three – poverty, race, and divorce rates – on homicide rates in US counties remain remarkably strong and stable over almost half a century despite profound changes in the economic and social situation in the United States. Further tests find no statistically significant differences between the regression slopes in the two time periods for each of the three factors. Land, K. C., McCall, P. L., and Cohen, L. E. (1990). Structural covariates of homicide rates: Are there any invariances across time and social space? Am. J. Sociol. 95:922–963.


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Publisher Citation

Tcherni, M. (2011). Structural determinants of homicide: The Big Three. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 27(4), 475-496.DOI: 10.1007/s10940-011-9134-x



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