We've noted before that most murder victims in the United States are often demographically-related to their murderers, but did you know that they would also appear to be even more closely linked on their social networks?
A new study of gun violence in Chicago, led by Yale sociologist Andrew Papachristos, reveals that a person's social network is a key predictor in whether an individual will become a victim of gun homicide, even more so than race, age, gender, poverty, or gang affiliation.
"Risk factors like race and poverty are not the predictors they have been assumed to be," said Papachristos, "It's who you hang out with that gets you into trouble. It's tragic, but not random."
The study, co-authored with Christopher Wildeman from the Yale Department of Sociology, likens gun violence to a blood-borne pathogen. In the analysis, published Nov. 14 in The American Journal of Public Health, Papachristos notes that crime, like a disease, follows certain patterns. People in the same social network, he said, are more likely to engage in similar risky behaviors—like carrying a firearm or taking part in criminal activities—which increases the probability of victimization.
The abstract of Papachristos and Wildeman's paper puts some numbers behind what they found:
Combining 5 years of homicide and police records, we analyzed a network of 3718 high-risk individuals that was created by instances of co-offending. We used logistic regression to model the odds of being a gunshot homicide victim by individual characteristics, network position, and indirect exposure to homicide. Results. Forty-one percent of all gun homicides occurred within a network component containing less than 4% of the neighborhood’s population. Network-level indicators reduced the association between individual risk factors and homicide victimization and improved the overall prediction of individual victimization. Network exposure to homicide was strongly associated with victimization: the closer one is to a homicide victim, the greater the risk of victimization. Regression models show that exposure diminished with social distance: each social tie removed from a homicide victim decreased one’s odds of being a homicide victim by 57%.
The bottom line: the more space there is between you and a criminal, the better.
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