Relative Deprivation, Absolute Deprivation, and Homicide: Testing an Interaction Between Income Inequality and Disadvantage


Both relative and absolute deprivation have effects on crime. These two concepts may be complementary, but much scholarship has treated them as separate. The present study assesses whether the effects of relative and absolute deprivation, measured as income inequality and disadvantage, respectively, interact in their effect on known homicide counts in U.S. counties. A multilevel regression model shows that there is a significant interaction between income inequality and disadvantage predicting homicide counts known to police. The plot of this interaction shows that when disadvantage is extremely high, increasing income inequality does not increase known homicides. The less disadvantage there is, the greater the effect of increasing income inequality on homicide counts in U.S. counties. This finding suggests that the effect of relative deprivation on known homicide is contingent on levels of absolute deprivation and vice versa. The implication of this finding is discussed.

Publication Title

Homicide Studies