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A comparative analysis of race and gang affiliation: Is race a marginalizing factor?

Adrienne Beth Freng, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Racial and ethnic minorities have long been associated with criminal behavior. From the time of slavery, continued discussions of minority over-representation in criminal behavior have centered on whether this over-representation results from discrimination within the system or whether racial or ethnic minorities actually participate more in criminal behavior. In order to address this issue, many theories, ranging from biological to social and cultural theories, have been proposed. Since racial and ethnic group membership has also long been associated with gang membership, many of these same theories have attempted to explain gang participation. In the past, gang researchers have noted the connection between race and gang membership, however, this research has been limited due to a lack of a comprehensive theory, and the concentration on specific racial groups and particular gangs in distinct geographical locations. Recent research by Curry and Spergel (1992), Hagedorn (1988), Moore (1991), and Vigil (1988) has attempted to address the connection between race and gang membership. ^ The purpose of this research was to address gaps in research regarding gang members from different racial groups. Specifically, this research examined two specific research questions: (1) Are there demographic, attitudinal, and behavioral differences across racial groups and does this vary by sex, site, and gang status? and (2) Do multiple marginality and social learning factors influence gang membership equally for different racial groups? It was hypothesized, based on Curry and Spergel (1992) and Vigil's (1988) research, that racial minorities would exhibit more marginality than Whites and separate models would predict gang membership for Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. ^ Findings suggested that racial minorities did exhibit more marginalization than Whites. While differences appeared based on sex, site, and gang status, racial patterns remained the same. Additionally, logistic regression results indicated that while some differences in explanatory variables for the racial groups existed, separate models are not needed to predict gang membership for Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Criminology and Penology|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Freng, Adrienne Beth, "A comparative analysis of race and gang affiliation: Is race a marginalizing factor?" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3022627.