Neighborhood environment, racial position, and risk of police-reported domestic violence: a contextual analysis

Public Health Rep. 2003 Jan-Feb;118(1):44-58. doi: 10.1093/phr/118.1.44.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the contribution of neighborhood socioeconomic conditions to risk of police-reported domestic violence in relation to victim's race. Data on race came from police forms legally mandated for the reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Methods: Using 1990 U.S. census block group data and data for the years 1996-1998 from Rhode Island's domestic violence surveillance system, the authors generated annual and relative risk of police-reported domestic violence and estimates of trends stratified by age, race (black, Hispanic, or white), and neighborhood measures of socioeconomic conditions. Race-specific linear regression models were constructed with average annual risk of police-reported domestic violence as the dependent variable.

Results: Across all levels of neighborhood poverty (< 5% to 100% of residents living below the federal poverty level), the risk of police-reported domestic violence was higher for Hispanic and black women than for white women. Results from the linear regression models varied by race. For black women, living in a census block group in which fewer than 10% of adults ages > or = 25 years were college-educated contributed independently to risk of police-reported domestic violence. Block group measures of relative poverty (> or = 20% of residents living below 200% of the poverty line) and unemployment (> or = 10% of adults ages > or = 16 years in the labor force but unemployed) did not add to this excess. For Hispanic women, three neighborhood-level measures were significant: percentage of residents living in relative poverty, percentage of residents without college degrees, and percentage of households monolingual in Spanish. A higher degree of linguistic isolation, as defined by the percentage of monolingual Spanish households, decreased risk among the most isolated block groups for Hispanic women. For white women, neighborhood-level measures of poverty, unemployment, and education were significant determinants of police-reported domestic violence.

Conclusion: When data on neighborhood conditions at the block group level and their interaction with individual racial position are linked to population-based surveillance systems, domestic violence intervention and prevention efforts can be improved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Censuses
  • Domestic Violence / economics
  • Domestic Violence / ethnology*
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mandatory Reporting*
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups
  • Police*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prejudice
  • Regression Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Rhode Island / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • White People / statistics & numerical data