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María B. Vélez

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University New Mexico


Generally, María investigates how stratification along racial/ethnic, political, and economic lines shapes and is shaped by the uneven patterning of crime and justice outcomes. One major theme of María’s work is to investigate the influence of political conditions on crime patterns across neighborhoods. For instance, a recent project with Christopher Lyons (UNM) and Wayne Santoro (UNM) finds that the often found positive association between percent Black and violent crime at the neighborhood level is weakened or sometimes nullified in cities with Black political representation (i.e., a Black mayor). A second theme centers on how crime levels change over time. A recent project with Eric Baumer (Penn State) and Richard Rosenfeld (University Missouri-St. Louis) provides the first critical assessment of US crime trends since the 1960s, highlighting the contours of the late twentieth century crime drop as well as a conceptual framework and blue print to study crime trends. In this vein, she also with Christopher Lyons (UNM) and Lauren J. Krivo (Rutgers University) is collecting data for the second wave of the National Neighborhood Crime Study (NNCS) which will provide an unprecedented portrait of the changing character of neighborhood crime, and also how changes in crime shape the fate of neighborhoods across a variety of city contexts. Given her interest in racial/ethnic stratification, she also examines, mostly with Wayne Santoro (UNM), the determinants of minority political behavior. A current project with Wayne Santoro (UNM) and Harold Toro (Notre Dame) finds that living in a disadvantaged Black neighborhood and feeling commonality with Blacks increases political action for second generation Puerto Ricans, as compared to their first or third generation counter parts. Future work will build upon these themes and data collection efforts; she also plans to explore the consequences of mass incarceration for the political well-being of Blacks and more broadly our democracy.