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Drawing on the theoretical statements of Braithwaite (1989), Cullen (1994), Messner and Rosenfeld (1994), this research examines the influence of social altruism on the level of crime for a sample of U.S. cities. The multivariate analyses clearly indicate that the ratio of contributions to the United Way to aggregate city income, a behavioral approximation of the cultural value of altruism, is inversely related to property and violent crime rates. The implications of these findings for the reduction of crime are discussed.
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SOCIAL ALTRUISM AND CRIME*
MITCHELL
B.
CHAMLIN
University
of
Cincinnati
JOHN
K.
COCHRAN
University
of
South Florida
Drawing on the theoretical statements
of
Braithwaite
(1989),
Cullen
(1994),
Messner and Rosenfeld
(1994),
this research examines the influ-
ence of social altruism on the level of crime for a sample of
U.S.
cities.
The multivariate analyses clearly indicate that the ratio of contributions
to the United Way
to
aggregate city income, a behavioral approxima-
tion
of
the cultural value of altruism, is inversely related
to
property
and violent crime rates. The implications
of
these findings for the
reduction
of
crime are discussed.
Most macro-social theories
of
crime can be thought of as embracing
either one of two basic conceptual insights
to
explain and predict varia-
tions in rates of crime. The first, which we refer to as the motivational
insight, recognizes that various structural and cultural conditions can set
into motion causal processes that motivate members
of
particular groups
or strata to disproportionately engage in criminal behavior. Specifically,
the failure of conventional society to provide sufficient legitimate avenues
to secure culturally defined success goals (Cloward, 1959; Merton, 1938),
the frustration produced by ascribed inequalities (Blau, 1994; Blau and
Blau, 1982), adherence to a subcultural value system that condones the use
of force to settle interpersonal disputes (Curtis, 1975; Gastil, 1971; Hack-
ney, 1969), as well as the dehumanizing effects
of
capitalism (Bonger,
1916), have all been variously identified as generating macro-social moti-
vations for crime.
The second conceptual insight, which we refer to as the opportunity
insight, recognizes that the social and physical structures
of
ecological
units can affect crime rates by influencing the attractiveness
of
potential
targets to motivated offenders. For example, the social control variant
of
opportunity theory focuses
on
the interrelationships among community
characteristics, informal social control, and target attractiveness. Ostensi-
bly, structural conditions that impede communication and the formation
of
*We would like to thank Frank Cullen, John Wooldredge, Paul Mazerolle,
Kenneth Land, and the anonymous reviewers for their input and Linda Naiditch,
Director
of
Market Information and Analysis for the United Way
of
America, for her
assistance.
CRIMINOLOGY VOLUME
35
NUMBER
2
1997
203
204
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
affective interpersonal relationships within communities inhibit the crea-
tion and maintenance
of
local institutions that could strengthen the level
of
informal social control, thereby increasing rates
of
crime and delin-
quency (Bursik and Grasmick, 1993; Kornhauser, 1978; Sampson and Wil-
son, 1995; Shaw and McKay, 1969).
Alternatively, environmental opportunity theories focus on the interre-
lationships among the social and physical ecology
of
communities, the day-
to-day activities of individuals, and the distribution of crime. Accordingly,
the concern is not
so
much with how the social structure affects local insti-
tutions, but rather how specific features
of
a community’s infrastructure,
as well as the structure
of
social relations, affects the convergence in time
and space of potential offenders and targets
of
crime (Brantingham and
Brantingham, 1991; Cohen and Felson, 1979; Felson, 1994; Newman,
1971).
Currently, one can begin to discern the emergence
of
a third insight that
has the potential to extend the understanding
of
the relationship between
social conditions and crime beyond that provided by traditional macro-
social motivational and opportunity theories of crime-the social altruism
insight.
Social altruism,
as we define it, refers to the willingness of commu-
nities to commit scarce resources to the aid and comfort
of
their members,
distinct from the beneficence
of
the state (see Piliavin and Charng, 1990;
Simmons, 1991).
Empirically, we hypothesize that social altruism varies inversely with
crime.
To
be
sure, this is not a novel idea (Angell, 1942,1947). Indeed, as
we discuss below, we believe that the concept
of
social altruism is a syn-
thetic term that can be used to organize, and subject to empirical evalua-
tion, a common theme that
is
integral to the recent theoretical
contributions
of
Braithwaite (1989), Cullen (1994), and Messner and
Rosenfeld (1994).
SOCIAL ALTRUISM AS
AN
ORGANIZING
CONSTRUCT
In
Crime, Shame, and Reintegration,
Braithwaite (1989) advances the
idea that variations in crime rates are inextricably tied to the manner in
which communities respond to law violations. At one end
of
the contin-
uum, communities that engage in punishment strategies that tend to iso-
late, dehumanize, and otherwise stigmatize offenders also tend to
exacerbate the crime problem. Ostensibly, societal reactions of this sort
(disintegrative shaming) minimize the deterrent effects
of
punishment by
inadvertently destroying mutual bonds of respect and caring that promote
repentance and a return to conformity.
As
a result, disintegrative shaming
tends to solidify the criminal self-concept, increase the attractiveness of
SOCIAL
ALTRUISM AND
CRIME
205
criminal subcultures, and thereby, increase the rate of illegal behavior
(B rait hwaite, 1989:5455, 1993).
At the other end
of
the punishment continuum, communities that
engage in reintegrative shaming-formal and informal sanctioning,
fol-
lowed
by
overt efforts
to
reaccept transgressors into conventional soci-
ety-are expected to experience relatively low rates
of
crime. When
punishment admonishes the offense rather than the offender, much like
that which occurs within the family setting, feelings of guilt, embarrass-
ment, and a desire to reform are likely to ensue. Hence, the more a com-
munity punishes in a manner that reinforces, rather than destroys,
interdependencies among individuals, the more it will enjoy lower rates
of
crime (Braithwaite, 19895-8).
Our
primary interest in Braithwaite’s approach, however, is not with the
relationship between the styles
of
social control and crime rates, but rather
with the social conditions that produce differential patterns of social con-
trol. According to Braithwaite (1989), the likelihood that a community’s
social control practices will tend to resemble one form
of
shaming instead
of
another is determined in no small part by the cultural context in which
it operates. Specifically, social systems that foster values that teach their
members that they have social and moral obligations to others above and
beyond those produced
by
self-motivated relationships
of
social exchange
(communitarian societies), are most likely to exercise reintegrative sham-
ing. Within such communities reintegrative shaming is likely to occur
because those enforcing social norms, as well as the offender, maintain a
stake in the latter’s continued participation in the community
(Braithwaite, 1989, 1993; Makkai and Braithwaite, 1994).
In contrast, social systems that promulgate values that encourage the
pursuit
of
particularistic interests (individualistic societies) are most likely
to rely on disintegrative shaming to control crime. According to
Braithwaite (1989:86-87), individualistic societies tend to disrupt the infor-
mal networks that facilitate the use
of
reintegrative shaming techniques.
Consequently, they must rely on the coercive power of the state to sanc-
tion offenders in ways that, more often than not, stigmatize and isolate
them from conventional society.
Thus,
the theory of reintegrative shaming clearly implicates the cultural
climate
of
the community (the
communitarianism-individualism
contin-
uum) in the production
of
crime rates. From the perspective
of
crime
reduction. two causal linkages seem readily apparent. First, insofar as
communitarian social systems are better able to shame offenders into
renouncing their antisocial behaviors, recidivism and, consequently, the
overall rate
of
crime, should decline. Second, insofar as communitarian
social systems instill a sense
of
moral and social obligation to others, they
are likely to discourage initial acts
of
criminality before they occur,
206
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
thereby reducing the overall rate
of
crime (Braithwaite, 1989, especially
pp. 61-65).
Messner and Rosenfeld (1994) also offer theoretical insights into the
development
of
a social altruism perspective
of
crime. Like Braithwaite,
they propose that culturally prescribed values that stress individualism,
particularly those associated with the procurement
of
material rewards,
play a pivotal role in the production
of
crime across macro-social units.
However, in contrast to Braithwaite, their concern is not with the causal
linkages between culture and styles
of
social control (i.e., shaming) and
crime, but rather with understanding how cultural values accentuate struc-
turally induced anomic pressures to engage in crime.
In brief, Messner and Rosenfeld’s institutional anomie theory embraces,
as a point
of
departure, Merton’s (1938,1957) basic observations concern-
ing the criminogenic influence
of
conventional society. According to
Merton, American culture places a preeminent emphasis on monetary
rewards (Lea, the “American Dream”). Although socially approved meth-
ods for acquiring property are also instilled in the populace, a preoccupa-
tion with the “ends” often relegates the norms associated with the
“means” to a position of lesser importance.
Thus,
in the context of
blocked opportunities, the contradictions between the values concerning
means and ends produce a state
of
anomie, which in turn, frees some seg-
ments
of
society to engage ir. criminal activities to procure monetary goals.
The
above notwithstanding. Messner and Rosenfeld question Merton’s
decision
to
restrict his analysis of the relationship between social structure
and anomie to only one facet of this dimension
of
the social system, the
legitimate opportunity structure. Following Durkheim (1897:254-256),
they argue that an expansion
of
economic opportunities, rather than miti-
gating the level
of
anomie in society, may actually intensify culturally
induced pressures to use extralegal means to acquire monetary rewards.
Insofar as economic vitality reinforces the societal preoccupation with the
goal
of
material success, it is likely to heighten the level
of
anomie within a
collectivity (Messner and Rosenfeld, 1994:62, 99-101). Hence, Messner
and Rosenfeld (1994:108) conclude that
the
elimination
of
structural
impediments
to
legitimate opportunities cannot, in and
of
itself, do much
to reduce crime rates.
Rather than focusing simply on the inability of the economy to provide
universal access to material rewards, Messner and Rosenfeld’s theoretical
schema explores the criminogenic effects
of
the triumph of values that
define success in terms
of
the accumulation of assets over the values that
define success in terms of more altruistic endeavors. Drawing heavily on
Marxist theory, they argue that the cultural penchant for pecuniary gain is
so
all-encompassing that the major social institutions (i.e., the polity, the
church, the schools, and the family) lose their ability to regulate passions
SOCIAL ALTRUISM AND
CRIME
207
and behaviors. Instead
of
promulgating and cultivating other social goals,
these institutions primarily support the quest for material success. For
example, rather than promoting a greater concern for the commonweal,
“the very purpose
of
government tends to be conceptualized in terms of its
capacity to facilitate the individual pursuit of economic prosperity” (Mess-
ner and Rosenfeld, 1994:79).
Thus,
to the extent that social institutions
are subservient to the economic structure, they fail to provide alternative
definitions of self-worth and achievement that could serve as counter-
vailing forces against the anomic pressures
of
the American Dream.
From this perspective, significant crime reduction can only be accom-
plished through the revitalization of noneconomic institutions and the con-
sequent reaffirmation of cultural values that inculcate the belief that there
is more to a successful life than the insatiable quest for more goods and
services (Messner and Rosenfeld, 1994:102-111; see also Veblen, 1889).
Put in the context
of
this discussion, this means that communities that can
more effectively instill values that result in their members finding satisfac-
tion in more altruistic pursuits (e.g., parenting, serving the community) are
likely to be less anomic and thereby suffer lower rates
of
crime (p. 110).
A third theoretical statement that complements Braithwaite’s discussion
of communitarianism, as well as Messner and Rosenfeld’s notions con-
cerning the social validation
of
noneconomic roles,
is
Cullen’s social sup-
port paradigm. In his presidential address to the Academy
of
Criminal
Justice Sciences, Cullen (1994) argues that social support is an implicit,
but
often neglected, causal factor that can account for variations in social con-
trol, individual involvement in crime, and crime rates. It is the latter out-
come that concerns
us
here.
Within the macro-social context, Cullen characterizes social support in
terms of the ability of communities to provide social networks that provide
both instrumental and expressive resources to cope with the exigencies
of
daily life (1994531437).
So
construed, social support
is
hypothesized as
serving as a bulwark against numerous structural sources of crime. Con-
sider, for example, the well-established statistical relationship between
family disruption and crime rates. Most research, rooted in the social dis-
organization tradition, interprets this association in terms
of
the impact
of
family structure
on
a community’s capacity to provide informal social con-
trol. Ostensibly, family disruption, as well as other structural antecedents
of
social disorganization, decrease the supervision
of
youth and property,
as well as participation in local associations, thereby producing high rates
of
crime (Messner and Sampson, 1991; Sampson 1986, 1987). However,
the finding that family disruption promotes higher rates
of
crime is equally
compatible with a social support interpretation.
As
Cullen (1994535)
aptly notes, “high rates of family disruption may operationalize not only
adults’ ability to exert surveillance over youths but also the availability to
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
youths
of
both adult support networks and the opportunity to develop inti-
mate relations.” Alternatively, communities that can provide effective
social support, either through the family or other institutions, encourage
conformity.
Thus,
Cullen concludes that the more social support there is
in a community, the lower the rate
of
crime (p. 534).
SYNTHESIS
The core insight that is subsumed within each
of
the approaches dis-
cussed above is the conviction that societies that can teach their members
to
value and perform behaviors that promote the welfare of others-that
is, social altruism-will experience lower rates
of
crime.
Thus,
whether
they are variously described as communitarian (Braithwaite, 1989), cultur-
ally regenerated (Messner and Rosenfeld, 1994), or socially supportive
(Cullen, 1994), the more communities can enmesh their citizens in mutual
ties
of
trust, empathy, and obligation, the more they can insulate their citi-
zens from macro-social precipitators
of
crime. To be sure, there is some
disagreement across the three theoretical statements about the intervening
mechanisms that link social altruism to crime rates. Nonetheless, each
of
these causal processes-methods
of
shaming (Braithwaite, 1989), anomie
(Messner and Rosenfeld, 1994), and social support (Cullen, 1994)-share
the common notion that societies that most effectively balance the pursuit
of individualistic agendas with a concern for the needs of others will be
most successful in establishing and teaching social values that inhibit their
members from engaging in criminal activities.
Currently, we are aware
of
no empirical studies that have directly
examined the relationship between social altruism, as codified here, and
rates of behavior, including crime. However, there
is
indirect evidence,
from the philanthropic literature, as well as from ecological analyses of
crime, that could
be
viewed as amenable to our social altruism thesis.
There is a substantial body of theory and research, rooted in a variety of
social science disciplines, concerning social altruism (Piliavin and Charng,
1990; Simmons, 1991). Unfortunately, most
of
this literature focuses on
the biological (Allison, 1992), social-psychological (Radley and Kennedy,
1995), and economic (Feldstein and Taylor, 1976) determinants, rather
than the consequences,
of
charitable activities. However, a growing body
of research indicates that the performance of beneficent behaviors pro-
motes their repetition and, more important, the acceptance of pro-altruis-
tic values (Callero et al., 1987; Piliavin and Charng, 1990; Simmons, 1991).
For example, Piliavin and Charng (1990) report, based on a review of sev-
eral recent studies, that blood donors are more likely to give money to
charities, do volunteer work, and participate in charitable fund-raising
activities than are nondonors. Moreover, Callero et al. (1987) report that
SOCIAL ALTRUISM AND CRIME
209
prior blood donation indirectly promotes
future
donations through the
development of altruistic attitudes. Thus, it appears that good work
spawns additional good work, as well as a concern for the welfare
of
others.
Of
course, whether the development
of
altruistic values affects the
performance
of
other types
of
behavior remains an empirical question.
Nonetheless, these findings are compatible with the hypothesis that social
altruism, insofar as it nurtures values that are antithetical to the victimiza-
tion of others, can reduce the rate of crime.
Various macro-social examinations of crime lend further credence to
our ideas concerning the social altruism-crime relationship. For example,
a number of studies report that structural conditions that could conceiva-
bly obstruct the formation
of
altruistic values (e.g., geographic mobility,
family disruption, and cultural heterogeneity) tend to be associated with
high rates
of
crime (Bursik and Webb, 1982; Crutchfield
et
al., 1982; Samp-
son and Groves, 1989). It should be noted that these findings are also
consistent with other causal processes, such as a reduction in informal
social control, and therefore must
be
regarded as suggestive.
Clearly, one must locate and analyze more proximate indicators
of
social altruism before commenting further
on
its relationship to crime.
This study seeks to address this deficiency by assessing the impact
of
a
measure
of
social altruism, controlling for the effects of variables derived
from motivational and opportunity theories, on variations in crime rates
for a sample
of
U.S. cities.
PROCEDURES
The initial sample for this investigation consists of 354 (86%) of the 410
U.S. cities that reported collecting at least $1 million in contributions to
their United Way campaigns. This choice reflects two concerns. First,
larger social aggregations, such
as
states, are probably too heterogeneous
to allow for an assessment of macro-social theory (Bailey, 1984). Second,
as a practical matter, our measure
of
social altruism is only available for
these cities. Missing values (primarily for the crime measures) reduces the
final sample size to 273 for the personal, and 279 for the property, crime
rate equations.
SOCIAL ALTRUISM
As noted above, we conceptualize social altruism as the willingness
of
communities
to
commit, distinct from the beneficence of the state, scarce
resources to aid and comfort their members. We exclude governmental
activities, such as transfer payments, from our definition because state-
sponsored assistance programs might not reflect the humanitarianism of
localities. Rather, they tend to be determined
by
a multiplicity
of
interests
21 0
CHAMLIN
AND
COCHRAN
and decisions that are made at federal, state, and local levels (Chamlin,
1992; Isaac and Kelly, 1981; Piven and Cloward, 1971; Schram and lbrbett,
1983).
To
capture a spirit
of
local voluntarism, we operationalize social altru-
ism in terms
of
contributions to a local charitable institution. The pre-
sumption here is that the more members
of
a community donate their
limited financial resources to help others, especially those within the same
community, the greater the level
of
social altruism. Among the numerous
philanthropic organizations in the United States, we believe that United
Way most closely approximates our concept
of
social altruism. Not only
does it derive most of its funds from locally organized solicitations, but it
also stresses the values of personal responsibility and communitarianism
(Brilliant, 1990; Green, 1987).
Indeed, the use
of
monetary contributions to local charities to measure
social altruism is not without precedent. For example, Angell (1942,
1947), in an attempt
to
identify the structural determinants
of
social inte-
gration among US. cities, included pledges to local Community Chests, a
precursor of the United Way, as the primary structural indicator
of
the
willingness of citizens
to
make economic sacrifices for the welfare of
others. Thus, similar to Angell, we operationalize social altruism in terms
of
the quantity
of
financial contributions to the yearly United Way
campaigns.
Specifically, social altruism is measured as the ratio
of
the two-year
average of money collected during the 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 United
Way campaigns to the aggregate income (1990). We use a two-year aver-
age to minimize the effects of idiosyncratic yearly fluctuations in contribu-
tions. We deflate this figure by aggregate city income to take into account
local differences in the capacity
to
donate money.
The national office
of
the United Way of America requests that the local
organizations report their contribution figures in the following, standard-
ized form:
(gross
campaign receipts plus transfers and designations from
other United Ways) minus transfers and designations to other United
Ways. Unfortunately, our source for the contribution data,
The Chronicle
of
Philanthropy,
provides
no
information about the compliance rate of cit-
ies from which they collected information.
To
assess the reliability of the
data reported in
The Chronicle
of
Philanthropy,
we requested and
received comparable data from the national office of the United Way of
America for cities that reported standardized campaign receipts
(N
=
328).
The zero-order correlations between the contribution data for the United
Way
of
America subsample
of
cities and the full sample, for both time
periods, exceed +.98. Hence, we are confident that the vast majority
of
local organizations reported standardized contributions figures to
The
Chronicle
of
Philanthropy.
Since the use of the financial data from the
SOCIAL ALTRUISM AND CRIME
21
1
United Way of America would generate sample attrition above and
beyond that produced by the missing data for the crime variables, we
decided to continue to use the 354-city sample.
DEPENDENT VARIABLES
In light of the dearth of theory and prior research concerning the social
altruism-crime relationship, we decided
to
explore the possibility that the
effects of social altruism might vary across offense categories. Hence, the
following analyses model the effects of social altruism and other structural
predictors
on
property and violent crime rates (1994). Following conven-
tion, the property crime rate is measured as the total number of burglaries,
larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 population, and the violent
crime rate is measured as the total number of homicides, robberies, aggra-
vated assaults, and forcible rapes per 100,000 population.
CONTROL VARIABLES
Following previous research (e.g., Blau and Blau, 1982; Jackson, 1984;
Jacobs, 1982; Sampson,
1986,
1987; Sampson and Groves, 1989), we
include seven control variables in the model specifications to account for
causal processes identified by motivational, opportunity, and composi-
tional theories. We also include three additional control variables that are
likely to affect the level of social altruism and crime rates across
municipalities.
A
number of motivational theories contend that economic deprivation
has a substantial impact
on
the level of crime across macro-social units.
For example, traditional Marxist theory (Bonger, 1916) and anomie theory
(Cloward, 1959; Merton, 1938) suggest that blocked opportunities produce
frustration and thereby motivate the disadvantaged to engage in crime to
satisfy their material needs.
Given the ongoing debate concerning the relative importance of abso-
lute and relative deprivation as predictors of crime (see Bailey, 1984;
Messner, 1982; Williams, 1984), our models include measures of both
dimensions of economic deprivation. Absolute deprivation is measured as
the percentage of families below the poverty level (1990). Relative eco-
nomic deprivation
is
measured by the Gini index of economic concentra-
tion (1989).
Alternatively, opportunity theories of crime focus
on
the relationships
among the physical and social structures of ecological units, informal
social control. and crime. For instance, urbanism theory, including the
social disorganization approach, suggests that structural conditions that
impede communication and the formation of affective interpersonal rela-
tionships foster higher rates
of
crime. Neighborhoods, as well as larger
212
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
social areas, that have large, heterogenous populations and that possess
few economic resources have difficulties creating and maintaining social
institutions that discourage criminal victimizations (Bursik and Grasmick,
1993; Crutchfield et al., 1982; Fischer, 1975; Kornhauser, 1978; Mayhew
and Levinger, 1976; Shaw and McKay, 1969; Tittle, 1989; Wirth, 1938).
To take into account the predictions
of
urbanism theory, the model
specifications include two measures
of
population heterogeneity, as well as
a measure
of
population size. The first indicator
of
population heteroge-
neity, racial heterogeneity, is measured as the percentage
of
the popula-
tion that is black (1990). The second, ethnic heterogeneity, is measured as
the percentage of the population that
is
foreign born. The third urbanism
variable, population size, is measured as the total number
of
inhabitants in
each city (1990).
Another variant
of
opportunity theory, the routine activity approach,
suggests that household structure affects levels
of
capable guardianship
and target suitability. Specifically, single-person households are hypothe-
sized to simultaneously decrease guardianship, but increase target attrac-
tiveness, thereby increasing rates
of
crime, especially those involving theft
(Cohen and Felson, 1979; Sampson, 1987; Sampson and Wooldredge,
1987). Household structure is measured as the percentage of single-per-
son
households (1990).
Various indicators of the age structure
of
the population are often
included as control variables because
of
the individual-level finding that
young adults tend to
be
disproportionately involved in crime as both vic-
tims and offenders (e.g., Jackson, 1984; Jacobs, 1982; Land et al., 1990).
The presumption here is that what is true for individuals is also true for
social aggregates. While this may not be
so
(Alker, 1969), we include the
percentage of the population aged 18 to 24 (1990) to control for the possi-
bility
of
an age-related compositional effect.
Lastly, the model specifications also include measures of residential
mobility, family disruption, and regional location.1 Each
of
these variables
has been found
to
significantly affect crime rates (Blau and Blau, 1982;
Crutchfield et al., 1982; Messner, 1982; Sampson and Groves, 1989).
To
the extent that these variables are also related
to
social altruism, their
exclusion from the analyses could lead to model misspecification error.
Clearly, there is reason
to
suspect that this might be the case.
For
exam-
ple, Braithwaite (1989:94-99) contends that residential mobility, along
with other dimensions of urbanism, reduces communitarianism. Family
disruption, insofar as it reduces participation in local institutions (Sampson
1.
The cities included
in
the sample are distributed across the
four
census
regions
as
follows:
22%
are located
in
the Northeast,
28%
are located
in
the
Midwest,
38%
are located
in
the South, and
12%
are located
in
the West.
SOCIAL
ALTRUISM AND
CRIME
213
and Groves, 1989), is likely to have a similar effect on communitarianism.
Historically, the South has evidenced a strong propensity to provide con-
siderably less public and private resources to mitigate various social
problems. Racial discrimination, as well as a more pervasive disregard for
the poor, appears
to
motivate the actions of Southerners (Chamlin, 1992;
Schiller, 1973). Consequently, it is likely that each of these factors could
affect the level of social altruism.
Residential mobility
is
measured as the percentage of persons five years
of age and older living in different locations in 1990 and 1985. Family
disruption is measured as the percentage of persons 15 and older who are
divorced.
The
southern location is measured as a dummy variable, where
1
=
South and
0
=
non-South.
SOURCES
Information concerning the official count of property and personal
crimes was obtained from the Uniform Crime Reports (Federal Bureau of
Investigation, 1995). The dollar value of contributions to the United Way
was ascertained from
The Chronicle
of
Philanthropy
(1994). With the
exception of residential mobility and the percentage of divorcees, data for
each of the control variables, as well as the income distributions used to
calculate the Gini index, were obtained from
The County and City Data
Book
(Bureau
of
the Census, 1994). Residential mobility was calculated
from data ascertained from Table 172 of
The Census
of
Population: Social
and Economic Characteristics
(Bureau of the Census, 1993). The percent-
age of divorcees was calculated from data gathered from Table 64 of
The
Census
of
Population: General Population Characteristics
(Bureau
of
the
Census, 1992).
RESULTS
ANALYTIC STRATEGY AND MODEL ADEQUACY
The
analysis proceeds as follows. First, because theory (Braithwaite,
1989; Cullen, 1994) and research (Crutchfield et al., 1982; Sampson and
Groves, 1989) suggest that there is a causal relationship between the social
structure and social altruism, we regress the latter on the entire set of
structural predictors. Second, because we suspect that the effects of a
number of social characteristics on crime, particularly urbanism, residen-
tial mobility, and cultural heterogeneity, are mediated by social altruism,
we regress property and violent crime rates on the
full
set of predictors.
Table
1
presents the final models of the effects
of
the structural
predictors on United Way contributions, and Table 2 presents the effects
of the structural predictors and social altruism
on
property and violent
214
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
crime rates. Inspection of the descriptive statistics, as well as the residual
analyses, reveal
no
problems with the ordinary least squares
(OLS)
solu-
tions for the United Way contributions or property crime rates. As is
reported in Tables
1
and
2,
the Breusch-Pagan test indicates that the dk-
turbance terms generated by these equations are homoscedastic.
The model for violent crimes. however, is another matter. The initial,
linear specification produces heteroscedastic errors
(X’
=
44.56,
p
<
.05).
Further investigation indicated that the violation of the normality assump-
tion for the violent crime rate is responsible for this problem.
To
induce
normality. we transformed the violent crime rates by their natural loga-
rithms.
Thus,
the final model for violent offenses, which is reported in
column
2
of
Table
2,
is in semilog form.
We also explored the extent to which multicollinearity, especially among
the measures
of
the racial and economic composition
of
cities, affects the
parameter estimates. First, we examined the correlation matrix for evi-
dence
of
multicollinearity (see Appendix
l).
Only two correlations exceed
.60;
the correlations between the percentage of families below the poverty
level and the percentage
of
blacks (.64) and the Gini index
(.61),
respec-
tively, were the strongest. Fortunately, reestimating each
of
the equations,
removing each of the predictors, one at a time, from each of the models,
produces minute fluctuations in the standard errors and no noticeable
changes in the findings. Second, we examined the variance inflation factor
(VIF) scores. None of the VIF scores, for any
of
the models, exceeds four.
Since a VIF value in excess of 10 is generally considered evidence of mul-
ticollinearity (Neter et al., 1990), we conclude that the VIF scores indicate
that collinearity is not a problem. Third, in recognition of the various criti-
cisms of VIF scores (see Maddala, 1992), we also examined the collinearity
diagnostics developed by Belsley et al., (1980). Experiments reveal that a
condition index threshold of approximately
30
suggests the existence of
potentially harmful collinearity and a variance-decomposition proportion
of
0.5
or greater should be used to identify dependencies among the pre-
dictor variables. Based
on
these decision rules, we find no evidence of
multicollinearity among the predictors included in each of the three final
models.
UNITED WAY CONTRIBUTIONS
To
reiterate, Braithwaite (1989) and Cullen (1994) suggest that a
number of structural factors, particularly those associated with urbaniza-
tion, inhibit the development
of
social altruism. Table
1,
which presents
the results of the
OLS
regression analysis of United Way contributions,
allows
us
to evaluate this contention.
SOCIAL ALTRUISM AND CRIME
215
Table
1.
OLS
Regression Estimates for the Effects of the
Structural Predictors on United
Way
Contributions
United
Way
Contributions
Percent Black
.OY*
.32b
4.38'
.01
.14
.27
3.44
-.22
-2.72
Percent Aged
18-24 .01
Poverty
.12*
Gini Index
-13.44*
Percent Foreign Born
.05*
Single-Person Households
.22*
.14
2.58
.40
6.87
Population Sized
-.oo*
-.22
Percent Divorced
-.06
-.05
-.84
Residential Mobility
-.01
South
-1.02*
.04
-.51
-.21
-3.19
Constant
1.77
Adjusted
R2
.36
N
302
a
Metric coefficient.
Breusch-Pagan Test
.47e
Standardized coefficient.
T
value.
For ease
of
presentation, the unstandardized coefficients for population size are
expressed
in
units per
1000.
Fail to reject the
null
hypothesis that the disturbance terms are homoscedastic at
p
<
.05.
*
p
<
.05.
216
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
Table
2.
OLS
Regression Estimates for Property and
Violent Crime Rates
Property Crime Violent Crime
(log)
United Way Contributions
Percent Black
Percent Aged
18-24
Poverty
Gini Index
Percent Foreign Born
Single-Person Households
Population Sized
Percent Divorced
Residential Mobility
South
Constant
Adjusted
R2
Bre usch-Pagan Test
N
-132.03a*
-.12b
-2.ooc
61.93*
.40
5.46
-36.92
-.08
-.95
2.01
.01
.05
.21
2.51
82.00*
.22
4.02
31.12
.05
.82
-.01*
-.13
-2.34
13616.11
*
389.84*
.32
5.01
48.68*
.15
2.11
348.69
.07
0.98
.40
17.55"
279
-6724.06*
-.03*
-.lo
-1.97
.03*
.53
8.32
-.17
-.12
-1.67
.03*
.23
3.33
.33
.02
.22
.03*
.23
4.85
.02*
.ll
2.06
.oo
.03
.58
.07*
.18
3.34
.01
.10
1.64
.05
.03
.51
3.99*
.57
8.54e
273
a
Metric coefficient.
Standardized coefficient.
T
value.
For ease of presentation, the unstandardized coefficients for population size are
expressed
in
units per
1000.
Fail to reject the
null
hypothesis that the disturbance terms are homoscedastic at
p
<
.05.
*
p
<
.05.
SOCIAL ALTRUISM
AND
CRIME
217
In general, the findings are consistent with the proposition that the dis-
ruptive effects of urbanization reduce the level of social altruism across
U.S. cities. Specifically, five of the seven significant parameter estimates
are in the expected direction. Both measures of cultural heterogeneity,
the percentage of blacks
(p
=
.32,
p
<
.05)
and the percentage
of
foreign
born
(p
=
.14,
p
<
.05)
are positively related to United Way contributions.
As
predicted, population size
(p
=
-.22,
p
<
.05),
a somewhat crude mea-
sure of urbanization, negatively affects United Way contributions. The
measure of economic equality
(p
=
-.22,
p
<
.05),
which Cullen
(1994:534)
argues retards the development of social support within communities
(what we deem social altruism), negatively affects United Way contribu-
tions. Lastly, the dummy variable for southern location
(p
=
-.21,
p
<
.05),
which we have suggested reflects a regional propensity to refrain from
providing financial assistance to others, is negatively related to the depen-
dent measure.
The only significant partial coefficients that can be interpreted as being
contrary to our initial predictions are those for the percentage of single-
person households
(p
=
.40,
p
<
.05)
and poverty
(p
=
.27,
p
<
.05).
Insofar
as poverty and single-person households inhibit the formation of strong
ties to the community (Sampson and Groves,
1989),
one would have antic-
ipated finding that poverty impedes, rather than promotes, contributions
to charitable institutions. It may be, however, that the positive relation-
ship between each
of
these two structural predictors and United Way con-
tributions may capture the influence of social need. That is to say, that
poverty and household structure, net of other factors, might reflect the
objective demand for assistance from the larger community. Hence, as
poverty and the percentage of single-person households increase,
so
too
might the willingness of the community to contribute to the less fortunate.
Regardless, the overall pattern of findings is clear.
As
hypothesized, struc-
tural conditions that would be expected
to
obstruct the establishment of
communitarianism appear to diminish the performance of altruistic
behavior.
PROPERTY AND VIOLENT CRIME RATES
As
noted above, Table
2
presents the findings from the
OLS
regression
analyses of property and violent crime rates. The first column reports the
effects
of
the structural predictors and United Way contributions on prop-
erty crime rates, and the second reports the effects
on
violent crime rates.
Two patterns of interest emerge from the analyses. First and foremost,
United Way contributions, net of other factors, negatively affect property
(p
=
-.12,
p
<
.05)
and violent
(p
=
-.lo,
p
<
.05)
crime rates. While the
magnitude of the standardized coefficients is relatively small compared
to
218
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
the other predictors, the coefficients are quite stable. That
is
to say, alter-
ing the model specifications does not reduce the parameter estimates for
the effects of United Way contributions
to
statistical insignificance.
Second, the results for the control variables tend to support the predic-
tions derived from motivational and opportunity theories and
are
compa-
rable to those reported in prior research
(e.g.,
Bailey, 1984; Jacobs, 1982;
Land et al., 1990; Messner and Golden, 1992). However, the negative rela-
tionship between population size and property crime is somewhat anoma-
lous and is not readily interpretable.
Consistent with various motivational theories, the indicators of relative
and absolute deprivation significantly affect the dependent measures.
However, it appears that the relationship between economic conditions
and crime varies across dimensions of deprivation, as well as categories of
crime. Specifically, the Gini index is positively related to property crimes,
but it has
no
effect
on
violent crimes. In contrast, poverty is directly
related to the violent crime rate, but it has
no
appreciable impact
on
prop-
erty offenses.
As
predicted by the opportunity theories of crime, measures of racial
and ethnic heterogeneity and the percentage divorced positively affect
each
of
the crime rates, while the percentage of single-person households
and residential mobility positively affect the property crime rate.
Contrary to expectations, population size is negatively related to prop-
erty crime rates. Further examination of
the
final models revealed no
problems with outliers, any failures to account for nonlinearities, nor other
evidence of model specification error. Hence, we conclude that this find-
ing is not a mere artifact of the data analyses.
While the negative partial effect for population size
is
somewhat discon-
certing, it is
not
without precedent in the research literature (Bailey,
1984:
Jackson,
1984;
Messner and Sampson,
1992).
Moreover, given that popu-
lation size is included in the models as a statistical control and therefore is
only peripherally related to the theoretical impetus of this study, we
decline offering any post-hoc speculations about the processes producing
this result.
Lastly, to determine the extent to which social altruism mediates the
effects of the structural predictors on crime, we performed two path analy-
ses. For clarity of presentation, Tables
3
and
4
report the total, indirect
(via United Way contributions), and direct effects of the structural
predictors
on
property and violent crime rates, respectively.
As
is clear from inspection of Table
3,
the measure of social altruism
does not mediate the effects of any of the structural variables
on
the prop-
erty crime rates. The indirect effects are invariably small and none of
SOCIAL ALTRUISM
AND
CRIME
219
Table
3.
Direct and Indirect Effects of the Predetermined
Variables
on
Property Crime Rates
Predetermined Variable
United Way Contributions
Percent Black
Percent Aged
18-24
Poverty
Gini Index
Percent Foreign
Born
Single-Person Households
Population Size
Percent Divorced
Residential Mobility
South
Total Effect
-.12
.37
-.09
-.03
.24
.21
.oo
-.lo
.38
.15
.09
Indirect Effect
via United Way
Contributions
-
-
-.04
-1.82
-.01
-.14
-.03
-1.73
.03
1.61
-.02
-1.59
-.05
1.92
.03
1.88
.06
.77
.oo
.46
.03
1.69
Direct Effect
-.12*
-2.ooa
.40*
5.46
-.08
-.95
.oo
.05
.21*
2.51
.22*
4.02
.05
.82
-.13*
-2.34
.32*
5.01
.15*
2.11
.07
.98
a
T
value.
*
p
<
.05.
them is statistically significant (see Allison,
1995,
for the computational
formulas
for
determining the statistical significance
of
indirect effects).
Although most
of
the indirect effects
of
the structural predictors on the
rate
of
violent crime tend to
be
modest, as seen in Table
4,
one is statisti-
cally significant. Consistent with Braithwaite’s
(1989)
discussion
of
the
disintegrative influence of urbanism, population size indirectly increases
the violent crime rate
by
inhibiting social altruism
(p
=
.022,
p
<
.05).
However, this result must be viewed with some skepticism. Given that we
estimated
20
indirect effects, we cannot rule out the very real possibility
that finding one significant intervening relationship merely reflects chance
variation.
In sum, while this study fails to sustain the contention that social altru-
ism mediates the influence
of
structural conditions on crime, it does sup-
port the core theoretical hypothesis concerning the relationship between
social altruism and crime. The multivariate analyses clearly indicate that,
220
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
Table
4.
Direct and Indirect Effects of the Predetermined
Variables on Violent Crime Rates
Predetermined Variable
United Way Contributions
Percent Black
Percent Aged
18-24
Poverty
Gini Index
Percent Foreign
Born
Single-Person Households
Population Size
Percent Divorced
Residential Mobility
South
Total Effect
Indirect Effect
via United Way
Contributions Direct Effect
-.lo
SO
-.12
-.20
.04
-.12
.07
.05
.19
.14
.05
-
-
-.03
-.23
-.oo
-1.43
-.03
-1.66
.02
1.62
-.01
-1.84
-.04
-1.90
.02*
3.50
.01
.75
.04
.57
.02
1.70
-.lo*
-1.97'
.53*
8.32
-.12
-1.67
.23
*
3.33
.02
.22
.23*
4.85
.11*
2.06
.03
.58
.18*
3.34
.10
1.64
.03
.5
1
a
T
value.
*
p
<
.05.
net
of
other factors, United Way contributions negatively affect both prop-
erty and violent crime rates. The implications
of
these findings for crime
reduction strategies, as well as future research, are discussed below.
DISCUSSION
Drawing on the theoretical statements
of
Braithwaite
(1989),
Cullen
(1994),
and Messner and Rosenfeld
(1994),
this research examines the
influence
of
social altruism on the level of crime for a sample
of
US.
cities.
The multivariate analyses clearly indicate that the ratio of United Way
contributions to aggregate city income, a behavioral approximation of the
cultural value
of
altruism, is inversely related to both property and violent
crime rates. Assuming, for the sake
of
argument, that these findings are
not simply an artifact
of
the research design, they strongly suggest that
communities that effectively teach their members to respect and engage in
SOCIAL ALTRUISM
AND
CRIME
221
behaviors that promote the welfare
of
others enjoy relatively lower rates
of crime.
To be sure, it is one thing to discern a statistical relationship between a
measure
of
social altruism and crime and quite another
to
translate this
finding into meaningful social policy. Part of the reason that opportunity
theories are, in our view, gaining ascendancy over motivational theories of
crime is because they engender attractive and relatively innocuous crime
prevention strategies. For example, environmental criminologists have
long argued that construction designs that minimize dead space and maxi-
mize public surveillance can substantially reduce the incidence of crime
(Brantingham and Brantingham, 1991; Felson, 1994).
In contrast, the policy implications of motivational theories invariably
call for a substantial reformation of the social structure. Even if such a
metamorphosis is possible,
it
may not accomplish as much as motivational
theorists anticipate. As Durkheim (1897) and, more recently, Messner
and Rosenfeld (1992:99-101) note, increasing the degree of social, racial,
and economic equality may redistribute social rewards among different
members
of
society, but it would not diminish the aggregate level of crimi-
nal motivation within
a
collectivity.
Unfortunately, the incentive that makes the elimination
of
social and
economic inequality exceedingly problematic-the desire to maximize
one’s own self-interest-has also been identified as inhibiting social altru-
ism (Allison, 1992; Andreoni, 1989). From a rational choice perspective,
altruistic behavior, insofar as
it
entails a net economic loss, is likely to be
rejected as counterproductive.
The above notwithstanding, it may be possible to manipulate the
rewards associated with charitable giving in a way that encourages the
development
of
altruistic values and, consequently, the reduction
of
crime.
Tho
observations gleaned from the philanthropic literature guide our
thinking.
First, a growing body of research indicates that increasing the tax
deductibility of charitable contributions fosters individual donations to
philanthropic organizations at a rate that, in some models, more than com-
pensates for the loss to the federal treasury (Feldstein and Taylor, 1976;
Reece, 1979; Reece and Zieschang, 1985; Taussig, 1967). Hence, it may be
possible to exploit, in a cost-efficient manner, the profit-maximizing ten-
dencies of individuals to encourage altruistic behavior. Second, as dis-
cussed above, it appears that altruistic behavior, regardless
of
its initial
impetus, tends to lead to further altruistic behavior as well as the accept-
ance
of
pro-altruistic values (Caller0
et
al., 1987; Piliavin and Charng,
1990; Simmons, 1991).
Taken together, these patterns suggest that it may be possible to build
222
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
altruistic values by first stimulating beneficent behavior by appealing to an
individual’s enlightened self-interest (e.g., modifying the tax code). Once
people engage in philanthropic behavior, regardless
of
their original rea-
sons
for doing
so,
they are likely
to
continue to repeat those behaviors and
develop altruistic values.
This is not to say,
of
course, that all individuals engage in altruistic pur-
suits only when it is in their economic interests to do
so.
Clearly, such is
not the case (Allison, 1992; Piliavin and Charng, 1990).
Thus,
it may be
prudent to complement economic incentives with appeals to more noble
sentiments, such as the National Football League’s commercials for the
United Way (Andreoni, 1989). What we are suggesting, however, is that it
is
possible to instill and nurture altruistic norms and values, regardless
of
the countervailing pressures that seem to
be
endemic to Western societies
(Braithwaite, 198923697).
In sum, the implications of this study are straightforward. Clearly, the
findings presented in this study should be replicated with other samples
and, most important, with alternative indicators
of
social altruism.
If,
however, subsequent investigations tend to confirm our initial findings
concerning the relationship between social altruism and crime, society
should consider initiating social policies, such as the ones identified above,
that motivate individuals to perform beneficent acts.
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B.
Chamlin is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University
of
Cincinnati. His current research focuses
on
the elaboration of macro-level theories
of
crime and crime control.
John K. Cochran
is
Associate Professor
of
Criminology at the University
of
South
Florida. His research interests are in the social control functions
of
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SOCIAL ALTRUISM
AND
CRIME
227
examination
of
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228
CHAMLIN AND COCHRAN
Appendix
1.
Zero-Order Correlations
by
Crime Type
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
-
-
.13
-.15
.02
-.27
.42
.52
.22
.64
-.13
.32
.44
2 3
.ll
37
-.07
-.lo
-.06
.ll
.09
.09
-.07
-.07
.01
-
-.16
.36
-
-.16
.10
-.20
-.03
-.I1
-.01
-.01
.02
.05
4
.02
-.06
-.15
-.01
.01
-.04
.27
.05
-.41
.07
.33
-
-
5
-.26
-.09
.11
-.01
.03
.04
.02
-.27
.60
.06
-
-
-.14
6 7
8
9 10 11 12
.43
-.06
-.19
.01
.02
.48
-.05
.18
-.07
-.18
.33
-
.52
.ll
-.03
-.04
.04
.48
.34
.61
.26
.ll
.41
-
.22
.08
-.11
.26
.02
-.05
.34
.ll
.13
.40
.21
-
.64
.08
-.01
.05
-.28
.18
.60
.ll
-.02
.33
.33
-
-.13
-.07
-.01
-.42
.60
-.08
.26
.13
-.03
-.01
-.11
-
.33
-.07
.02
.07
-.14
-.19
.ll
.40
.33
-.01
-.06
-
.65
.19
.12
.24
-.14
.29
.44
.23
.55
-.20
-.19
-
NOTES:
The upper triangle reports the zero-order correlations between the structural
predictors, United Way contributions,
and
the natural log
of
the violent crime rate
(N
=
273).
The lower triangle reports those
for
the structural predictors, United Way
contributions, and the property crime rate
(N
=
279).
1
=
percent black,
2
=
population size,
3
=
percent foreign
born,
4
=
percent divorced,
5
=
residential mobility,
6
=
South,
7
=
Gini index,
8
=
single-person households,
9
=
poverty,
10
=
percent aged
18-24,
11
=
United Way contributions, and
12
=
crime rate.
All
correlations greater than
k
.12
are statistically significant at
p
c
.05.
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