Spatial Inequality, Relative Deprivation, and Extralocal Neighborhood Influences on Youth Offending

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

American Society of Criminology


Philadelphia, PA

Conference Dates

November 15-18, 2017

Date of Presentation



A large body of research demonstrates that neighborhood processes are spatially dependent –levels of crime and disadvantage in one neighborhood spillover and influence levels of crime in surrounding neighborhoods. Studies examining these processes at the individual level consistently report that levels of socioeconomic disadvantage in spatially proximate neighborhoods reduce, rather than increase offending. Drawing on relative deprivation theory, we advance a novel explanation for the countervailing influence of extralocal neighborhood disadvantage on youth offending. Specifically, we argue that increasing affluence in ‘extralocal neighborhoods’ initiates unfavorable comparison processes through which youth (1) come to view their opportunities for success as limited (compared to those living nearby) and thereby (2) rationalize acts of delinquency to redress perceived inequality. We empirically evaluate several hypotheses derived from this framework by appending spatially referenced neighborhood data to the individual survey records of youth participating in the University of Missouri – St. Louis Comprehensive School Safety Initiative – a longitudinal study of approximately 4,000 middle school students from a relatively heterogeneous sample of urban and suburban neighborhoods in the St. Louis, MO region.

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