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 of Quantitative Criminology – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 10, 2016
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