1 Violence and Victims, Volume 18, Number 4, August 2003 Nonlethal Intimate Partner Violence: Examining Race, Gender, and Income Patterns Callie Rennison Bureau of Justice Statistics Washington, DC Mike Planty American Institutes for Research Washington, DC The correlation between race of victim and intimate partner violence (IPV) is examined. Previous research showing a relationship between Black victims and higher levels of violence were based on uni-variate examinations and often do not consider other important factors. This paper presents national estimates of IPV by victim s race using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), The estimates based only on race are then disaggregated to account for the victim s gender and household income. Uni-variate findings demonstrate that victim s race is significantly related to rates of intimate partner violence. However, after controlling for both victim s gender and annual household income, the victim s race is no longer significant. The importance of understanding intimate partner violence through a person s socioeconomic status rather than race is discussed. Keywords: race; intimate partner violence; domestic violence; abuse Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects millions of persons regardless of age, race or income level in the United States (e.g., Greenfeld et al., 1998; Rennison 2001a, 2001b; Rennison & Welchans, 2000; Straus & Gelles, 1992; Tjaden & Thoennes, 1997). In 1999, estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) indicated that over 800,000 violent crimes were committed against persons by their current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends (Rennison, 2000). Though no population is free of IPV, research shows that some populations are disproportionately affected. For example, trends in intimate partner homicide show that while this violence decreased between 1976 and 1995 overall, rates of intimate partner homicide decreased at a faster rate for Black than for White victims (Greenfeld et al., 1998; Puzone, Saltzman, Kresnow, Thompson, & Mercy, 2000). Race is one variable often correlated with differential levels of violence in the aggregate (Hawkins, 1993; Hawkins, Laub, Lauritsen, & Cothern, 2000; Krivo & Peterson, 1996, 2000; Reiss & Roth, 1993; Sampson & Wilson, 1995; Tonry, 1995; Wilson, 1987). Intimate partner violence is no exception (Bograd, 1999; Greenfeld et al., 1998; Rennison, 2001a; Sorenson, 1996; Straus & Gelles, 1986; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). 1 These studies of intimate partners and families reported higher rates of violence in black families/relationships than in white families/relationships. For example, Greenfeld and colleagues (1998, p. 13) reports [A]mong female victims of nonlethal intimate violence, 2003 Springer Publishing Company 433
2 434 Rennison and Planty blacks experience[d] higher rates than whites (about 12 and 8 victimizations per 1,000, respectively). Tjaden and Thoennes (2000) report that over a lifetime [R]acial minorities experience more intimate partner violence than do whites (p. 25). While aggregate national estimates are informative and provide a simplified picture of a problem of interest, generalizing from aggregate estimates to subpopulations can be misleading or simply wrong, since patterns of victimization are often confounded by other factors. When other important factors are considered, the rate of intimate partner victimization can be greatly altered (increased or decreased). For example, research shows that Blacks are more likely to use physical violence in an intimate relationship than are Whites, but that this relationship becomes insignificant once the economic status of the victims are considered (Crowell & Burgess, 1996, pp ). Cazenave and Straus (1992, pp ) concluded that: [A]lthough black respondents are more likely to approve of family violence and to report that they actually slapped a spouse within the last year, when class and social network embeddedness are controlled, most of these differences disappear. The implications of using simplistic associations for understanding and preventing violence in general, and intimate partner violence specifically, is problematic because it results in a potential misunderstanding of the problem and a subsequent misallocation of valuable resources. Smelser, Wilson and Mitchell (2001, p. 5) suggest: Analyzing the circumstances of racial groupings in gross, aggregated terms often obscures the causal significance of race as a variable. Consider these statements... : Whites were more likely than Blacks and Hispanics to live in families with no minor children ; and Black and Hispanic youths were more likely to carry a weapon, be involved in fights, and be victimized by others. Taken by themselves, unless disaggregated by subgroups and adjusted, at a minimum, for socio-economic class, such statements are misleading because they imply that the operative independent variable is racial or ethnic membership. In this article we explore the fundamental question about the relationship between IPV and victim s race using descriptive statistics generated from the NCVS, We begin by introducing aggregate rates of IPV, then show step-by-step how the rates and the patterns across White, Black and other race populations shift by taking into account important victim characteristics. In the end, we provide disaggregated IPV rates based on victim s gender, race and household income. METHODOLOGY This report presents data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). NCVS data are derived from an ongoing, nationally representative sample of households in the United States and includes data on crime victims (e.g., age, gender, race, ethnicity, marital status, income and educational level), criminal offenders (e.g., gender, race, approximate age and victim-offender relations) and the nature of the crime (e.g., time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury and economic consequences). NCVS data include victimizations reported and not reported to police, but excludes data on homicide (because victims are interviewed). Between 1993 and 1999, approximately 336,295 households and 651,750 individuals age 12 or older were interviewed. For the NCVS data presented, response rates varied between 93% and 96% of eligible households, and between 89% and 92% of eligible individuals. Intimate partner relationships involved current and former spouses, boyfriends,
3 Intimate Partner Violence 435 and girlfriends, and can include relationships of same sex partners. Violent acts covered in this analysis include completed and attempted rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Because the NCVS is a household-based survey, it does not capture the experiences of homeless individuals or those living in institutional settings such as battered persons shelters, or the military. While several studies estimate high rates of IPV in the homeless community or on persons residing in shelters for homeless or battered persons, the exact impact of this coverage limitation on NCVS estimates is unknown. Another issue associated with NCVS data is series victimizations. Series victimizations are defined as six or more incidents similar in nature for which the victim is unable to recall dates and other details of the individual incidents well enough to report them separately. Because of the respondent s inability to provide details allowing classification of each incident, information on the most recent incident is collected. These crimes are problematic from a counting and qualitative standpoint because it remains unclear how or whether these victimizations should be combined with the majority of crime incidents that are separately reported. As a result and maintaining consistency with past government reports, series victimizations are counted as 1 victimization in this analysis. Generally, series victimizations represent about 7% of all violent victimizations, but between 9% and 12% of intimate partner victimizations (Greenfeld et al., 1998; Rennison & Welchans, 2000). Past criticism of the NCVS ability to gather information about certain crimes, including sexual assaults and domestic violence, prompted a major redesign in 1992 (e.g., Bachman & Taylor, 1994; Cantor & Lynch, 2000; Fisher & Cullen, 2000). The analyses presented in this article are derived from postredesign data only. Three general victim characteristic variables are used in this analysis: race, gender and annual household income. Race is coded as White, Black or other race. Other race refers to an aggregation of Asians, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, Alaska Native and American Indians. While it is preferable to present rates for these categories separately, insufficient individual sample sizes prevented this disaggregation. Victim s gender is coded as male or female. Annual household income is coded into four categories: less than $7,500, $7,500 to $24,999, $25,000 to $49,999 and $50,000 and greater. All estimate comparisons were tested for statistical significance using SIGMA programs designed specifically for the NCVS by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. These programs use generalized variance functions taking into consideration the complex NCVS sample design. 2 Differences described in the text as higher, lower or different passed a hypothesis test at the.05 level of statistical significance (95% confidence level). Comparisons that were statistically significant at the.10 level (90% confidence level) are characterized as somewhat different, marginally different or slightly different. In addition, 95% confidence intervals are presented in the tables. FINDINGS This section begins with a general discussion of the bivariate relationship between victim s race and IPV rates. Next, these rates are disaggregated first based on the victim s gender, and then based on the victim s annual household income. The final table presents a complete disaggregation of IPV by gender, race and household income. In each case we provide IPV rates for White, Black, and persons of other races. However, the discussion is focused on the differences between White and Black individuals. The small number of cases reported in the other race category limited our power to detect differences.
4 436 Rennison and Planty In the aggregate, persons age 12 or older in the U.S. experienced 4.8 intimate partner victimizations per 1,000 persons between 1993 and 1999 (Table 1). As stated above, much research points to differences in IPV rates across racial categories. Table 1 supports this position by demonstrating significant differences in overall rates of intimate partner violence by victim s race. Specifically, 6.7 Blacks, 4.6 Whites and 2.7 persons of other races (per 1,000 persons) were IPV victims between 1993 and 1999 (columns 2 through 4 in Table 1). The nonlethal violence captured by the NCVS demonstrates different rates of IPV for males and females. In general, Table 2 demonstrates differences between male and female IPV rates across all types of crime males experienced violence by an intimate at lower levels and rates than females. This pattern exists regardless of the victim s race. Because male IPV rates are low and based on relatively few sample cases, it is difficult to make any precise statements about differences and/or similarities between IPV rates of males of different races. Focusing on females only, the NCVS demonstrates that IPV rates differ by victim s race. Specifically, Black women experienced IPV at higher rates than White women, and women of other races (10.7, 7.8 and 4.5 victimizations per 1,000 respectively). Further, Black women suffered serious violence and assault at the hands of an intimate partner at rates higher than White women and women of other races. Thus, even after controlling for victim s gender, the analyses suggest that the victim s race is significant. Research consistently shows that while IPV exists across the spectrum of household incomes, it occurs most often among persons with lower annual households incomes. This finding is supported. Table 3 shows that persons living in households with an annual income less than $7,500 experienced 13.4 intimate partner victimizations (per 1,000), while persons in households with an annual income of $50,000 or more experienced 2.3 victimizations (per 1,000). TABLE 1. Intimate Partner Violence, by Race of Victim, 1993 to 1999 Rate per 1,000 Persons (95% Confidence Intervals) Total White Black Other Overall violent crime (0.322) (0.336) (0.934) (0.969) Rape/sexual assault * (0.077) (0.083) (0.232) (0.253) Robbery * (0.066) (0.071) (0.255) (0.253) Total assault (0.293) (0.305) (0.846) (0.891) Aggravated assault (0.113) (0.113) (0.414) (0.444) Simple assault (0.253) (0.271) (0.712) (0.761) Serious violent crime (0.168) (0.168) (0.556) (0.578) Note. Overall violent crime includes rape, sexual assault, aggravated and simple assault. Serious violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault. *Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
5 Intimate Partner Violence 437 TABLE 2. Intimate Partner Violence, by Race and Gender of Victim, 1993 to 1999 Rate per 1,000 Males (95% Confidence Intervals) Total White Black Other Male Victims Overall Violent Crime * (0.204) (0.220) (0.677) (0.729) Rape/sexual assault 0.0* 0.0* * 0.1* (0.000) (0.000) ( ) (0.254) Robbery * * (0.052) (0.056) (0.149) ( ) Total assault * (0.195) (0.210) (0.658) (0.681) Aggravated assault * (0.107) (0.099) (0.431) (0.360) Simple assault * (0.167) (0.179) (0.484) (0.574) Serious Violent Crime * (0.121) (0.116) (0.431) (0.443) Female Victims Overall Violent Crime (0.566) (0.599) (1.579) (1.739) Rape/sexual assault * (0.141) (0.153) (0.421) (0.353) Robbery * (0.130) (0.128) (0.445) (0.501) Total assault (0.510) (0.538) (1.419) (1.614) Aggravated assault (0.199) (0.206) (0.657) (0.799) Simple assault (0.449) (0.478) (1.223) (1.384) Serious Violent Crime (0.294) (0.303) (0.926) (1.050) Note. Overall violent crime includes rape, sexual assault, aggravated and simple assault. Serious violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault. *Based on 10 or fewer sample cases. No sample cases. When the relationship between income and IPV is further refined by controlling for victim s race, the picture changes dramatically. IPV rates become differentiated along income rather than racial lines for White and Black victims. White persons residing in households with incomes of less than $7,500 annually experienced 13.5 IPV victimizations (per 1,000 persons). This is statistically equal to 14.4 IPV victimizations (per 1,000 persons) against Black persons in households of similar incomes. IPV rates for White and Black persons were statistically equal regardless of the income category considered. White and Black victims in households with more than $50,000 in annual income experienced intimate partner violence at the lowest rate. Rates of IPV against persons of other
6 438 Rennison and Planty races were statistically equal to those of Black and White persons for every income category except the lowest. Among those living in households with annual incomes of less than $7,500, persons of other races experienced IPV at rates lower than White or Black persons. How does victim s gender impact the income-race finding? When income, gender and race are examined collectively, IPV rates differentiate along annual household income and gender, but not victim s race among White and Black individuals (see Table 4). Again, low sample sizes prohibit detailed discussion about male differences, though it is clear that males were IPV victims at rates far less than females, regardless of the income level considered. Among female victims, IPV rates continued to differ based on income, not race, for White and Black victims. In general, the higher the annual household income, the lower the rate of IPV. For example, considering all female victims, IPV rates were highest (20.0 victimizations per 1,000) in households with an income of less than $7,500 annually. In contrast, IPV rates were lowest (3.6 victimizations per 1,000) for females in households with incomes of greater than $50,000 annually. This pattern existed for White and Black females as well. White females in households with incomes of less than $7,500 annually experienced 20.3 victimizations (per 1,000 persons) at the hands of an intimate compared to 21.0 (per 1,000) sustained by Black females statistically similar rates. The same relationship emerged in the other income categories. IPV rates for White and Black females did not differ statistically regardless of the household income during the period 1993 to Rates of IPV against females of other races were statistically equal to those of Blacks and Whites in every income category except the lowest. In households with annual incomes of less than $7,500, females of other races were victimized by an intimate at rates lower than White or Black females. CONCLUSIONS Intimate partner violence affects persons of all races and income levels, though some populations are disproportionately victimized. Considering only bivariate relationships, the evidence suggests that Black individuals experience IPV at rates higher than White persons, TABLE 3. Intimate Partner Violence Rates by Annual Household Income and Race of Victim, 1993 to 1999 Rate per 1,000 Persons (95% Confidence Intervals) Household Income Total White Black Other Less than $7, (1.789) (2.125) (3.327 (4.629) $7,500 to $24, (0.685) (0.737) (1.694) (2.514) $25,000 to $49, (0.479) (0.517) (1.292) (1.627) $50,000 or greater (0.371) (0.388) (1.403) (1.082) Note. Rates are for violent crimes: rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault. *Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
7 TABLE 4. Intimate Partner Violence Rates by Income, Gender and Race of Victim, 1993 to 1999 Males Females Rate per 1,000 Persons Rate per 1,000 Persons (95% Confidence Intervals) (95% Confidence Intervals) Household Income Total White Black Other Total White Black Other Less than $7, * 2.9* * (1.143) (1.363) (2.118) (5.190) (2.740) (3.284) (4.957) (7.268) $7,500 to $24, * (0.454) (0.501) (1.244) (1.457) (1.169) (1.263) (2.822) (4.724) $25,000 to $49, * 1.0* * (0.351) (0.374) (1.226) (1.582) (0.874) (0.947) (2.252) (2.758) $50,000 or greater * 0.3* * (0.318) (0.351) (1.293) (0.832) (0.658) (0.699) (2.625) (2.040) Note. Rates are for violent crimes: rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault. *Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
8 440 Rennison and Planty that females experience IPV at rates higher than males and that lower income households experience IPV at rates higher than higher income households. However, when victim characteristics are considered concurrently the relationship between victim s race and rate of IPV is not significant. Significant relationships between rate of IPV and victim s gender and income remain. These findings are inconsistent with a racial explanation of crime a Black subculture of violence (e.g., Messner, 1983). Consistent with Wilson s argument, these findings support the notion that violence is largely associated with populations characterized by social and economic isolation. Blacks are disproportionately represented in communities with extreme levels of social and economic dislocation (Sampson & Wilson, 1995; Wilson, 1987). Associations demonstrating high rates of victimization of Black individuals without controlling for economics are confounded by the fact that a large segment of the underclass is Black. Failure to account for the role of income leads to the use of race as an oversimplified proxy. The findings presented are congruent with studies examining general violence (not specifically IPV). Violence follows economic lines that may be associated with a class subculture of violence. Using a socioeconomic index, Krivo & Peterson (1996, p. 640) show that extremely disadvantaged communities have qualitatively higher levels of crime than disadvantaged areas, and that this pattern holds for both Black and White communities. They conclude that their findings clearly substantiate Sampson and Wilson s contention that the sources of crime are invariant across race and are rooted largely in the structural differences among communities (Krivo & Peterson, 1996, p. 642). Our analysis, while relatively simple, supports an economic rather than a racial explanation for criminal victimization. Though the finding that income is related to IPV specifically, and crime in general is clear, the critical mechanism responsible for these relationships remain unclear. One must consider that these findings may be a methodological artifact related to the administration of the survey rather than a true difference in violence. Survey reporting could be a product of social desirability such that certain groups are less likely to be influenced by sensitive questions when describing violence of this nature. In addition, some individuals may not consider certain types of behaviors as violence and underreport incidents. Of course, others can extend the definition by characterizing certain events as violent or threatening regardless of questionnaire wording. That is, even with specific cues and question wording, certain groups may constrain or expand what they consider worth reporting. Analyzing aggregates while serving important purposes also masks important data (e.g., Planty & Rennison, 2001). The step-by-step descriptive analysis presented here illuminates how conclusions change by disaggregating annual household income, rather than stopping with victim s race. While the findings presented are significant, further research is warranted. Future examinations should include more complex analyses, including the addition of other variables. For example, the socioeconomic status of the person/household could be better measured by incorporating the number of persons in the household, employment characteristics (e.g., number of hours worked) or community characteristics. In addition, the inclusion of other variables might ferret out the actual mechanisms that are directly related with victimization (e.g., Neff, Holamon, & Schluter, 1995). Income is still a crude proxy for a particular mechanism or set of mechanisms that lead to greater use of violence between intimates. The exploration of what factors related to lower levels of income, besides the methodological ones discussed previously, needs further exploration. Is it the strain directly related to monetary resources available to the
9 Intimate Partner Violence 441 individuals or could a concentration of factors (e.g., poverty, drug use, unemployment, single parent family structures, aggressive policing) found in the communities where these individuals live produce the social context that increase the likely use and acceptance of violence as a means for settling disputes? The relationship between race and intimate partner violence should be addressed using a variety of data sets. While the NCVS offers many advantages (e.g., short recall period, bounded data, large sample), it also has characteristics that may underestimate IPV even following its redesign. For example, the NCVS is a crime survey and that context may deter some respondents from discussing violence they do not consider to be criminal in nature. Also, the NCVS covers only a limited number of violent crimes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault. Other activities such as stalking and economic control are not covered in the NCVS. Intimate partner violence constitutes a broad range of acts, is complex and simply cannot be captured with one number from one survey. Further, an expansion of the national data collection process or localized special data collections will enable the appropriate examination of victims of other races. As this category currently exists, important heterogeneity is concealed. For instance, it is well established that victimization rates, and specifically IPV rates of American Indians are extraordinarily high, while IPV rates of Asians are among the lowest (Rennison, 2001a). 3 The aggregation of American Indians and Asians is not preferred, however, because these are relatively small populations, and violence in general continues to fall, only the collection of more data will allow the appropriate disaggregation. Data improvements like these will allow a better examination of some of our anomalous findings. 4 Finally, with more data, the experiences of IPV against males could be further explored. In sum, though past research demonstrated a correlation between race and intimate partner violence, this bivariate relationship does not remain once socioeconomic factors are considered. Future research should build on this basic notion in order to better understand and address the problem of intimate partner violence. NOTES 1. For an exception see Zawitz (1994) where findings suggested that White and Black women were victimized by an intimate partner at equivalent rates. This finding is based on data collected prior to a major redesign of the NCVS which improved the survey s ability to gather information about certain crimes including sexual assaults and domestic violence. 2. SIGMA program information, parameters and spreadsheets are available from the authors. 3. Of course, the aggregation of Asian, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and Alaska Natives into a single group collectively described as Asian is also problematic. 4. For example, females of other races experienced IPV at rates significantly lower than Black and White females in households with annual incomes of less than $7,500. REFERENCES Bachman, R., & Taylor, B. (1994). The measurement of family violence and rape by the redesigned National Crime Victimization Survey. Justice Quarterly, 11, Bograd, M. (1999). Strengthening domestic violence theories: Intersections of race, class, sexual orientation, and gender. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 25(3),
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