Urban Code or Urban Legend: Endorsement of the Street Code Among Delinquent Youth in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Georgia


Elijah Anderson’s subcultural explanation for the adoption of the ‘‘code of the street’’ has directed scholarly attention toward specific cultural norms and scripts that encourage or sanction violence in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods. We provide an explicit test of the general assumption that the code of the street is predominantly endorsed by youth residing in urban communities. Using data on 2,183 juvenile offenders committed to the State of Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice between July 2002 and December 2003, we examine youths’ strength of endorsement of code-specific attitudes. Importantly, these delinquent youth formerly resided in Georgia zip codes of varying degrees of urbanism, from highly urbanized to isolated rural areas. The findings suggest a considerable generalizability in strength of endorsement of the street code among delinquent youth residing in very distinctive types of territorial units. These analyses illustrate that the contemporary preoccupation among criminologists with an urban-based theory of the code may be misguided; the street code has broader reach than the inner city and is, in general, neither race-specific nor more strongly endorsed among delinquent youth in highly urbanized areas.

Publication Title

Race and Justice