Black Neighbors, Higher Crime? The Role of Racial Stereotypes in Evaluations of Neighborhood Crime

Quillian, Lincoln, and Devah Pager
Working paper no. 2000-03


Our paper investigates the relationship between neighborhood racial composition and perceptions residents have of their neighborhood’s level of crime. We use survey questions asking about perceptions of neighborhood crime from the 1978 Chicago Crime Factors and Neighborhood Decline study, the 1990 Testing Theories of Criminality and Victimization in Seattle study, and the 1994 Crime Changes in Baltimore study, matched with neighborhood data from the 1980 and 1990 summary tape files of the census, and crime statistics from local police departments. We find that the percentage young black men in a neighborhood is positively associated with perceptions of the neighborhood’s level of crime, even after controlling for two measures of neighborhood crime rates and other relevant individual and neighborhood characteristics. The negative influence of percent young black men on perceptions of neighborhood crime holds for all racial groups but is stronger for non-blacks than for blacks. We argue this supports the view that stereotypes are influencing perceptions of neighborhood crime levels. Implications for racial segregation are discussed.