Urban Violence

Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Urban violence may be sporadic or endemic. Sporadic violence refers to periodic eruptions of communal violence between social groups whereas endemic violence is built into the ecological organization of urban areas by structural conditions in society. Although communal violence often appears to be spontaneous, it is often orchestrated by social entrepreneurs for political purposes. The most common form of communal urban violence in the United States is the race riot. Race riots swept urban America during two periods - just after World War I and during the 1960s - and they erupt occasionally to the present day, usually in response to a triggering event, though research suggests the underlying cause is usually competition for scarce resources. Endemic urban violence varies across neighborhoods and is strongly associated with concentrated disadvantage caused by the segregation of a poor group by race and class. In the United States, high levels of violence are disproportionately concentrated in racially isolated poor black neighborhoods and exposure to such urban violence has been shown to have strong negative effects on health, cognition, and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


  • African-Americans
  • Cities
  • Concentrated disadvantage
  • Poverty
  • Segregation
  • Urbanism
  • Violence


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