Structural Characteristics of Cities and the Severity of Racial Disorders

Spilerman, Seymour

This study attempts to ascertain whether particular structural arrangements and demographic features of a community were responsible for especially severe disturbances during the 1960s. Preliminary to addressing this question, consideration is given to the manner of measuring severity and to the volatile components of this phenomenon. With respect to the latter, it is found that (1) disorder severity declined as a function of the number of prior outbreaks in a city and (2) there is evidence for a temporal effect, with the post-Martin Luther King-assassination disturbances having been unusually destructive. Regarding the more stable (community) determinants of disorder severity, only Negro population size and a dummy term for South were found to be related to severity. Net of these variables, various indicators of Negro disadvantage in a community failed to reveal significant associations with severity. This result is interpreted as further evidence for the distinctly national character of the disturbances in the 1960s.

Geographic Areas



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American Sociological Review

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SAGE Publications
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December 6, 2013