Eric P. Baumer
Research and Teaching Interests
My research and teaching interests fall within the areas of criminology, communities and urban sociology, the sociology of law, and social demography. I am especially interested in assessing social change and spatial variation in levels of crime and victimization, the mobilization of law, and the application of legal sanctions.
I have two ongoing research programs that are supported by multiple entities, including the College of the Liberal Arts, the Criminal Justice Research Center, and the Population Research Institute at Penn State, and external funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice.
Social Change and Youth Crime
This research program explores the substantial long- and short-term changes in crime in America and elsewhere. Building on a blueprint for future research on crime trends I published with colleagues in the Annual Review of Criminology, my most recent papers on this theme have included: (1) a 2021 study published in Criminology, which suggests that the large reduction in youth offending prevalence in America observed since the early 1990s was significantly associated with a decrease in unstructured socializing and alcohol consumption and, to a lesser extent, with a decrease in youth preferences for risky activities; and (2) a 2022 study published in The Sociological Quarterly, which examines the impact of recent shifts in the spatial clustering of poverty in America on homicide trends. I am currently working on a new paper that implements multi-level data on youth social change to further examine the reductions in offending that occurred during the 1990s and 2000s as well as more recent changes in youth offending associated with the volatile events of 2020.
Community Context, Crime, and Victimization
This research program examines multiple dimensions of community variation in crime and victimization. First, building on recent publications with Dr. Min Xie (University of Maryland) that examine the impact of community immigrant concentration on victimization risk and the willingness of citizens to report crimes to the police and other work that explores geographic variation in immigration policy, a current project considers the role of citizenship status, county levels of undocumented immigration, and local immigration policy in shaping victimization risk. An initial paper from this project published in Criminology in 2021 shows that a person’s foreign-born status, but not their acquired U.S. citizenship, confers protection against victimization. A second paper from the project published in Criminology & Public Policy in 2023 reveals that the activation of Secure Communities and 287(g) task force agreements significantly increased violent victimization risk among Latinos, whereas they showed no evident impact on victimization risk among non-Latino Whites and non-Latino Blacks. Building on these publications, new papers from the project are in progress. Second, a collaborative project with Dr. Kyle Thomas (University of Colorado) examines the impact of neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage on the perceived costs and benefits of crime. An initial paper, published in Criminology in 2022, finds that objective levels of neighborhood concentrated disadvantage influence individuals’ perceptions of, and preferences for, the risks, costs, and rewards associated with offending indirectly by affecting perceived disorder and perceived opportunities for legitimate avenues of success within one’s neighborhood. A second paper, currently under review, examines the mechanisms that help to account for the link between neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and individual differences in subjective perceptions relevant to crime.
Research Interests by Concentration
CriminologyCriminology, Community and Urban Sociology, Law and Social Control, Demography, Quantitative Research Methods and Statistics
Urban, Community, and Spatial Sociologycommunities and crime, mobilization of law
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