Risk-taking and homicide victimization : a multi-level study
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The majority of homicide research focuses on the explanation of aggregate-level variation in homicide rates. Fewer studies have examined homicide victims from an individual-level of analysis and those existing studies have been unable to sufficiently explain individual-level variation by race, age, gender, and social environment. This study posits that the key to explaining individual-level variation lies in the lifestyle of the victim. That is, the effect of race, age, gender, and social environment on homicide is mediated by healthcompromising and unsafe behaviors, such as drinking, gun ownership, or fighting. The 1993 National Mortality Followback Survey (NMFS) is used in a multilevel study to explore this topic. The NMFS is a large, nationally representative, dataset of US adults who died in 1993 and is uniquely suited for an analysis of homicide due to its large oversampling of homicide victims. The dependent variable compares homicide to deaths from risky causes (suicide, accidents, and preventable) and all other causes. The findings confirm that certain demographic correlates (young, male, non-white) are significantly related to a risky lifestyle. Also, certain risky, unsafe behaviors (drinking, drinking excessively, gun ownership, and attitudes favorable to deviance) are highly associated with homicides over other causes of death. Engagement in these risky behaviors is not uniquely related to death from homicide though – these same risky behaviors are highly associated with deaths from a risky cause. Additionally, only tentative support is given for the theory that lifestyle explains individual-level variation in homicide. The results demonstrate that, net of lifestyle, the victim’s race, age, gender, and social environment continue to have a significant and strong relationship with homicide victimization.