Abstract: The relationship between violent crime rates and levels of neighborhood economic disadvantage has been well established in criminological research. However, the association between national economic conditions and rates of violence over time is less clear, perhaps because much existing research has relied on aggregate violent crime data. Studies have shown that Blacks and Latinos have been more susceptible than Whites to financial hardship during past economic downturns. Thus, if rates of violence are associated with changing economic conditions, violent victimization trends disaggregated by race and ethnicity should show greater changes in violence among minorities during periods of national economic change.
Using data from the 1973 to 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey, we estimate previously unknown trends in serious violent victimization for Latino, non-Latino Black, and non-Latino White males. We find that the trends for Latino and Black males are similar and closely follow changes in the national index of consumer sentiment, while the trends for White males display few of these same fluctuations. The violent victimization of minority males peaks during periods of economic downturn and declines as the economy improves. The findings also show that the association between changing economic conditions and violence might have weakened in recent years. Possible explanations for these patterns and their implications for public policies will be discussed.