Social Disorganization in Rural Communities

  • Monica M. Taylor
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Public Health book series (BRIEFSPUBLIC)


Social disorganization theory (SDT) utilized in this chapter to demonstrate the behavioral backlash of rural populations as a result of economic choices. Social disorganization theory links the association of high crime and violence rates to ecological structures in the environment. Widely used in urban settings, the behaviors of rural community members is of central importance to this chapter and the utility of SDT. In communities where social disorganization is evident, there is a lack of capacity in its members to solve problems jointly in their shared environment due to ethnic diversity or residential instability. As this theory is explored, other social issues are examined, including urban and rural crime, and the capitalism effect in the criminal justice system.


Social disorganization theory Rural mystique Rural ghetto Residential segregation Prison industrial complex Corporations Economic mobility Rural crime Civic participation 


  1. Alexander, M. (2012). The new jim crow: Mass incarcerations in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  2. Binswanger, I. A., Krueger, P. M., & Steiner, J. F. (2009). Prevalence of chronic medical conditions among jail and prison inmates in the USA compared with the general population. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 63(11), 912–919.Google Scholar
  3. Binswanger, I. A., Redmond, N., Steiner, J. F., & Hicks, L. S. (2012). Health disparities and the criminal justice system: An agenda for further research and action. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 89(1), 98–107. Scholar
  4. Binswanger, I. A., Blatchford, P. J., Forsyth, S. J., Stern, M. F., & Kinner, S. A. (2016). Epidemiology of infectious disease–related death after release from prison, Washington State, United States, and Queensland, Australia: A Cohort Study. Public Health Reports, 131(4), 574–582.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, D., & Schafft, K. (2011). Rural people and communities in the 21st century. Malden: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Congressional Research Service. (2010). Economic impacts of prison growth. Retrieved from:
  7. Covin, L. (2012). Homelessness, poverty, and incarceration: The criminalization of despair. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 12(5), 439–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deller, S. C., & Deller, M. A. (2010). Rural crime and social capital. Growth and Change, 41(2), 221–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donnermeyer, J. (2007). Rural crime: Roots and restoration. International Journal of Rural Crime, 1, 2–20.Google Scholar
  10. Eason, J. M. (2012). Extending the Hyperghetto: Toward a theory of punishment, race, and rural disadvantage. Journal of Poverty, 16(3), 274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gottfredson, M., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford: Stanford UP.Google Scholar
  12. Harbeck, K. M. (2015). Social disorganization theory. Research starters: Sociology (Online Edition). Google Scholar
  13. Hartley, C. (2014). Two conceptions of justice as reciprocity. Social Theory and Practice, 40(3), 409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jones, J. (2012). Looking beyond the ‘rural idyll’: Some recent trends in rural crime. Criminal Justice Matters, 89(1), 8–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kang-Brown, J, & Subramanian, R. (2017). Out of sight: The growth of jails in rural America. New York: Vera Institute of Justice. Retrieved from:
  16. Kaylen, M. T., & Pridemore, W. A. (2013). Social disorganization and crime in rural communities: A first direct test of the systemic model. The. British Journal of Criminology, 53, 905–923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kearney, M. Harris, B. Jacome, E., & Parker, L. (2014). The Hamilton project: Ten economic facts about crime and incarceration in the United States. Retrieved from:
  18. Lee, M., & Ousey, G. (2001). Size matters: Examining the link between small manufacturing, socioeconomic deprivation, and crime rates in nonmetropolitan communities. Sociological Quarterly, 42(4), 581.Google Scholar
  19. Lichtenstein, A. (1997). Twice the work of free labor: The political economy of convict labor in the New South. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  20. Lichter, D., & Brown, D. (2011). Rural America in an urban society: Changing spatial and social boundaries. Annual Review of Sociology, 37, 565–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lofstrom, M., & Raphael, S. (2016). Crime, the criminal justice system, and socioeconomic inequality. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(2), 103–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCaghy, C., Capron, T., Jamieson, J., Harley, S., & Carey, H. (2016). Deviant behavior: Crime, conflict, and interest groups (8th ed.). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  23. McGranahan, D. (1986). Crime and the countryside. Rural development perspectives. Retrieved from:
  24. Merton, R. K. (1957). Social theory and social structure, revised and enlarged edition. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
  25. Miller, S. (1976). The political economy of social problems: From the sixties to the seventies. Social Problems, 24(1), 131–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moore, M., & Sween, M. (2015). Rural youth crime: A reexamination of social disorganization theory’s applicability to rural areas. Journal of Juvenile Justice, 4(1), 47–63.Google Scholar
  27. Nkansah-Amankra, S., Kwami Agbanu, S., & Miller, R. (2013). Disparities in health, poverty, incarceration, and social justice among racial groups in the United States: A critical review of evidence of close links with neoliberalism. International Journal of Health Services, 43(2), 217–240.Google Scholar
  28. Reichert, C., Cromartie, J., & Arthun, R. (2014). Reasons for returning and not returning to rural U.S. communities. The Professional Geographer, 66(1), 58–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rosen, D. L., Schoenbach, V. J., & Wohl, D. A. (2008). All-cause and cause-specific mortality among men released from state prison, 1980–2005. American Journal of Public Health, 98(12), 2278–2284.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Shaw, C. R., & McKay, H. D. (1942). Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  31. Shihadeh, E. S., & Barranco, R. E. (2010). Latino employment and non-Latino homicide in rural areas: The implications of U.S. immigration policy. Deviant Behavior, 31(5), 411–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Soukhanov, A. (Ed.). (2004). Ecology. Encarta Webster's dictionary of the English language (2nd ed.). New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  33. The National Center for Victims on Crime. (2017). Urban and rural victimization. Retrieved from:
  34. Thomas, W. I., & Znaniecki, F. W. ([1918–1920] 1996). The polish peasant in Europe and America: Monograph of an Immigrant Group. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252064844
  35. Thompson, H. (2012). The prison industrial complex: A growth industry in a shrinking economy. New Labor Forum, 21(3), 39–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Weisheit, R., Falcone, D., & Wells, L. (2006). Crime and policing in rural and small-town America. Long Grove: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  37. Wells, L. E., & Weisheit, R. A. (2004). Patterns of rural and urban crime: A county-level comparison. Criminal Justice Review, 29(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Western, B., Rosenfeld, J, & Kleykamp, M. (2004). Economic inequality and the rise in U.S. imprisonment. Retrieved from:,%20Kleykamp,%20%26%20Rosenfeld_Economic%20Inequality%20and%20the%20Rise%20in%20US%20Imprisonment.pdf
  39. Wilper, A. P., Woolhandler, S., Boyd, J. W., et al. (2009). The health and health care of US prisoners: Results of a nationwide survey. American Journal of Public Health, 99, 666–672.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica M. Taylor
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Colorado State University – Global CampusFaculty-Healthcare Administration and BusinessGreenwood VillageUSA
  2. 2.University of Maryland-University CollegeAdjunct Full Professor-Health Services ManagementAdelphiUSA

Personalised recommendations