Criminal Justice Review

Kaylen, Maria, William Alex Pridemore*, and Sean Patrick Roche



The United States experienced a dramatic decline in interpersonal violence rates between the early 1990s and mid-2000s. This decline, however, was much steeper in urban and suburban relative to rural areas. Prior research showed changing demographic composition can account for a substantial amount of change in inequality in victimization rates. We employed National Crime Victimization Survey data and counterfactual modeling to determine if changes in demographic composition—including proportion of population young, unmarried, male, unemployed, and in several income groups—of urban, suburban, and rural areas were partially responsible for changes between 1993 and 2005 in (1) area-specific aggravated assault victimization rates and (2) urban–suburban, urban–rural, and suburban–rural victimization rate ratios. Results showed changes in individual demographic characteristics played a very minor role in changes in area-specific assault rates. The one exception was income, which explained a substantial amount of change in victimization rates across all three areas. Changes in demographic composition explained a greater amount of change in rural relative to urban and suburban victimization rates. Changes in demographic composition across these three area types were also responsible for a small proportion of the large changes in the urban–rural and suburban–rural victimization rate ratios over time.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff