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Civic engagement imperative for reduction of violence and improved public health
Date:4/28/2010

BATON ROUGE In a set of papers just published in two leading scholarly journals, LSU sociology professor Matthew Lee reports that both violent crime and all-cause mortality rates are on average substantially lower in communities with a vibrant civic climate.

Lee, currently a provost fellow in LSU's Office of Research and Economic Development, has been a central purveyor of the civic community paradigm over the last 10 years, and these studies extend the research program begun under his 2003 National Science Foundation CAREER award. In this paradigm, a robust civic climate is typically indexed as a dense matrix of non-economic institutions like churches and civic associations, a spirit of civic engagement through mechanisms like voting and an ethic of entrepreneurial business activity.

"People typically associate social problems like violence or poor public health almost exclusively with economic conditions like poverty," said Lee. "But these studies and others we have conducted highlight additional pieces of the puzzle that must be put together for us to fully understand the nature of community social problems."

The first paper, "Civic Community, Population Change and Violent Crime in Rural Communities" was published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, ranked by the Institute for Scientific Information as the second highest impact criminology journal in the world. In this paper, Lee and his co-author Shaun Thomas of the University of Arkansas - Little Rock, report that rural communities that were more civically robust had lower average violent crime rates and experienced less change in violent crime during the 1980 2000 period. Conversely, high rates of population growth weakened this effect because rapid growth is a socially disorganizing force. In this study, an index of civic robustness was constructed from county-level measures of churches per capita, voter turnout, faith-based civic engagement
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Contact: Ashley Berthelot
aberth4@lsu.edu
225-578-3870
Louisiana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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