Birds of a Feather Fight Together: Status-Enhancing Violence, Social Distance and the Emergence of Homogenous Gangs

Birds of a Feather Fight Together: Status-Enhancing Violence, Social Distance and the Emergence... Objectives This study proposes a theoretical framework for understanding two empirical findings from gang research: (1) gangs are generally racially homogenous, even in heterogeneous environments, and (2) gang violence tends to be intra-racial. We draw from the extensive literature on street gangs as well as from research on group formation and status-enhancing behavior to develop a theoretical model of gang formation. Methods Using game theory, we model the simultaneous decisions of individuals to commit status-enhancing acts of violence and to seek protection by joining a gang. We then conduct computer simulations to examine the resulting patterns of violence and gang composition. Results We demonstrate that as long as some social distance exists between racial groups in a community, gang violence will be intra-racial and gangs will be homogenous. We find that our results are robust to a number of simple variations of the model and allow us to generate several hypotheses about the nature of gang formation and patterns of violence. Conclusions When violence is motivated by socially constructed rewards, socially closer targets are likely to yield greater rewards. In such a system, individuals must reduce their likelihood of victimization by entering a social contract of non-violence (i.e. gang http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Quantitative Criminology Springer Journals

Birds of a Feather Fight Together: Status-Enhancing Violence, Social Distance and the Emergence of Homogenous Gangs

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 by Springer Science+Business Media New York
Subject
Criminology and Criminal Justice; Criminology and Criminal Justice, general; Sociology, general; Methodology of the Social Sciences; Statistics, general
ISSN
0748-4518
eISSN
1573-7799
D.O.I.
10.1007/s10940-016-9331-8
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Objectives This study proposes a theoretical framework for understanding two empirical findings from gang research: (1) gangs are generally racially homogenous, even in heterogeneous environments, and (2) gang violence tends to be intra-racial. We draw from the extensive literature on street gangs as well as from research on group formation and status-enhancing behavior to develop a theoretical model of gang formation. Methods Using game theory, we model the simultaneous decisions of individuals to commit status-enhancing acts of violence and to seek protection by joining a gang. We then conduct computer simulations to examine the resulting patterns of violence and gang composition. Results We demonstrate that as long as some social distance exists between racial groups in a community, gang violence will be intra-racial and gangs will be homogenous. We find that our results are robust to a number of simple variations of the model and allow us to generate several hypotheses about the nature of gang formation and patterns of violence. Conclusions When violence is motivated by socially constructed rewards, socially closer targets are likely to yield greater rewards. In such a system, individuals must reduce their likelihood of victimization by entering a social contract of non-violence (i.e. gang

Journal

Journal of Quantitative CriminologySpringer Journals

Published: Nov 10, 2016

References

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