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Public Health Rep. 2003 Jan-Feb;118(1):44-58.

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

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Department of Community Health, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.



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.


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.


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.


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.

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