A researcher at the University of Iowa has compiled a study that links economic downturns to increases in violent victimization rates among minority populations. Karen Heimer, a UI Sociology professor, co-authored the study with Janet Lauritsen of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
They used data from 1973 to 2005. Heimer says they found violent victimization rates "spiked" in Latino and African-American populations during periods of economic recession. "This kind of adds credence to an idea that has not been completely well documented, but that we thought was sort of the case in criminology, that the victimization of minorities is associated with higher poverty and maybe higher vulnerability to poverty during economic downturns," Heimer said.
The study’s findings could benefit police, policy makers and crime victims services agencies in the current recession. However, Heimer says there’s no way to predict that there will be another jump in violent activity in minority communities.
"But, our data suggests that it’s something we want to be paying close attention to," Heimer said. "Perhaps, any kind of policy that can help resources of these communities and can address issues of unemployment and poverty – may have consequences beyond just the economics. It may have good consequences for levels of crime and violence."
Heimer was in Chicago Sunday to present the study at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.