Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Armchair Sociology: Ghetto Ign't Children, Social Disorganization, and the Origin of Black Female-Headed Families

He had a toy gun. And he is tatted up. So sad. I must ask: Where is the free Norplant bus? Is there a voucher available for this essential public health service?

Just getting back into the swing of things following the holiday. For now, we are upping the momentum and slowly getting going again--trust, something fun and special is forthcoming (at least I think so). And yes, there will be a Predators review posted late Thursday night for we/us/you ghetto nerds--it is on the schedule and budgeted for as midnight showings mean this ghetto negro got to get the cab back to Hyde Park after the late show and a few Stella's at Streeter's Bar (you all are lucky because July is a 3 paycheck month).

For now, my colleagues that have figured out my online name, friends, and respectable negro comrades may turn turn up their noses at this post, but I submit that it is oh so appropriate and perfect for the purposes of reflecting on negro respectability. In keeping with earlier pieces where I promised to bring 1) posts relevant to Daniel Patrick Moynihan or 2) examples that are directly or tangentially related to his thesis on the ghetto underclasses, I present ghetto, ign't chilluns enabled by their mommies or baby daddies behaving as only "they" can. The cell is ready. What will his prisoner number be in 10 or 15 years?

Ultimately, ain't fate a cruel mistress? Oh how so sad the power of life chances are, cause this kid is done for.

Hate me if you will. But Courtesy of Oh Hell Nawl, you all cannot resist the impulse to laugh at this coonery. I dare you. Tell me how you can drink a Coke or eat a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich and not laugh and projectile vomit all of yourself while watching this clip!

Now, my two academic interventions.

First some good stuff: As excised from The Origin of Black Female-Headed Families by Erol Ricketts courtesy of the Institute on Poverty Research:

To restate the main points of this article: Significant family-formation problems among the black population are of recent origin, for there is no evidence suggesting that family-formation patterns of blacks have historically been fundamentally different from those of whites. If anything, the evidence shows that blacks married at higher rates during most of the period studied. Serious family-formation problems among blacks began to emerge after World War 11, when black urbanization surpassed that of whites. I have speculated that the unprecedented economic uncertainty experienced by both upper-class and lower-class blacks over the last few decades is at the core of the family-formation problems of both groups. And because both groups function in the same marriage market, I believe the shortage of marriageable men relative to women and the hedging of bets by both men and women will likely contribute to a spiraling of family-formation problems over the near future. It is unlikely that these problems can be easily reversed, and they are likely to get worse without significant changes in economic circumstances.

Some weaker sauce from Wikipedia...but still pretty powerful. On social disorganization theory:

Social disorganization theory pioneers Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay suggested that disorganized communities characterized by poverty, population heterogeneity, and residential mobility weakened the effectiveness of social controls (Kelly, 2000; Messner, Baumer, & Rosenfeld, 2004). Weakened social controls led to the inability of communities to solve problems, which, in turn, led to crime. While the theory was initially popularized by Shaw and McKay, “the concept of social disorganization was applied to the explanation of crime, delinquency, and other social problems by sociologists at the University of Chicago in the early 1900s” (Jensen, 2003, p. 1). At that time, the city of Chicago was the perfect laboratory for social research as it was booming with industry and was the home to an increasingly diverse population. With this rapid growth and constant change, social problems ensued, allowing society to become somewhat disorganized.

In light of the social problems plaguing Chicago and its suburbs, Shaw and McKay studied the prevalent local crime and delinquency. Building on “an ecological theory of urban dynamics,” social disorganization theory aimed to explain the larger ratio of delinquency that occurred in certain Chicago neighborhoods (Cantillon, Davidson, & Schweitzer, 2003, p. 322). Shaw and McKay “discovered that high delinquency rates persisted in certain Chicago neighborhoods for long periods of time despite changes in the racial and ethnic composition of these communities—a finding that led to the conclusion that neighborhood ecological conditions shape crime rates over and above the characteristics of individual residents” (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003, p. 374). Further, their study revealed that high rates of crime occur in those communities that exhibit declining populations and physical deterioration (Jensen, 2003).

At its core, social disorganization theory focuses on the effects of location and location-specific characteristics as they relate to crime (Mustaine, Tewksbury, & Stengel, 2006). Neighborhoods lacking organization lack the necessary social controls and are unable to provide essential services. This leads to an inability of the community to control its public, which is why “one way to define social disorganization is to view such places as unable to maintain public order through informal means” (Mustaine et al., 2006, p. 332). The absence of public order coupled with the problematic characteristics of disorganized communities—namely, poverty, population heterogeneity, and residential mobility—are strong predictors of high crime rates. In fact, “defined in terms of the absence or breakdown of certain types of relationships among people,” social disorganization theory “is intimately tied to conceptions of those properties of relationships that are indicative of social or communal ‘organization’” (Jensen, 2003, p. 1).

The question then becomes: How effective is social disorganization theory in explaining criminal behavior? There are five criteria used in evaluating theories, which demonstrate whether the theory makes sense in the simplest way of explaining crime and whether the theory is able to be tested to deliver true and valid results. In greater detail, each of the five criteria is applied to social disorganization theory as follows:

  1. Logical consistency: Social disorganization theory makes sense; its assumptions are logically consistent.
  2. Scope: While aiming to explain a broad range of phenomenon, the scope of social disorganization theory is an effective tool to be used in critical analysis of criminal behavior.
  3. Parsimony: Social disorganization theory is simple and easy to comprehend as demonstrated by the name of the theory itself.
  4. Testability: As seen with the early studies of Shaw and McKay as well as more recent efforts, it is clear that social disorganization theory is able to be tested and is not limited in its scientific value.
  5. Empirical validity: Shaw and McKay’s study supported the research as did the more recent efforts of Elizabeth Ehrhardt Mustaine, Richard Tewksbury, and Kenneth M. Stengel in their 2006 study of registered sex offenders, illustrating the validity of social disorganization theory.
Because social disorganization theory is effective within the scope of the aforementioned criteria, it follows that the theory is useful in the real word and, therefore, has possible public policy implications.

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