This Essay analyzes trends in violence from a spatial perspective, focusing on how changes in the murder rate are experienced by communities and groups of residents within the city of Chicago. The Essay argues that a spatial perspective is essential to understanding the causes and consequences of violence in the United States and begins by describing the social policies and theoretical mechanisms that explain the connection between concentrated disadvantage and violent crime.

The analysis expands on a long tradition of research in Chicago, and it studies the distribution of violence in the city’s neighborhoods from 1965 to 2020. It additionally analyzes how the concentration of violence is overlaid with police violence and incarceration, creating areas of compounded disadvantage. Finally, it compares the recent trends of violence in Chicago with trends across the hundred largest cities in the United States.

This Essay concludes that addressing the challenge of extreme, persistent segregation by race, ethnicity, and income across Chicago’s neighborhoods is necessary for producing a sustained reduction both in the city’s overall level of violence and in the disparities in the levels of violence faced by different neighborhoods.