Qualitative Research

By now we hope we have made clear to the reader that the study of communities and crime is complex. Scholars recognize the intricate interrelationships among the community constructs that they study, but quantitative analyses are frequently hindered by limitations of the data. Thankfully, the rich and extensive qualitative tradition of urban ethnography provides us with a complementary literature that can help provide some of the missing pieces in the puzzle of communities and crime. Whereas quantitative scholars are forced to reduce complex social phenomena into measurable variables, qualitative scholars are able to observe social reality in all its richness. Few lines of social scientific inquiry benefit from a mixed-methods approach as much as the study of neighborhoods.

The qualitative literature on communities and crime fleshes out our discussion on two major points. First, scholars highlight the central importance of violent values and subcultures of violence in the etiology of community violence, which are hard to measure in quantitative studies. (We were only able to find one quantitative study that fit the criteria for our review.) Second, qualitative scholars have provided insight on the dynamics of community factors, collective efficacy and violent vs. nonviolent crime.

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