Andrew V. Papachristos

Professor of Sociology | IPR Fellow


Biography

Sociologist Andrew V. Papachristos’ research aims to understand how the connected nature of cities—how their citizens, neighborhoods, and institutions are tied to one another—affect what we feel, think, and do. His main area of research applies network science to the study of gun violence, police misconduct, illegal gun markets, street gangs, and urban neighborhoods. He is also in the process of completing a manuscript on the evolution of black street gangs and politics in Chicago from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Papachristos is actively involved in policy-related research, including the evaluation of gun violence prevention programs in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

An author of more than 50 articles, Papachristos’ work has appeared in journals such as JAMA, The American Sociological Review, Criminology, and The American Journal of Public Health, and publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Chicago Tribune have covered his work. Papachristos has received numerous awards, including the American Society of Criminology’s Ruth Cavan “Young Scholar” award and The National Science Foundation’s Early CAREER award. Over the coming year, Papachristos will be launching the Northwestern Neighborhood and Network Lab—or N3 Lab—at IPR.

Prior to coming to Northwestern, Papachristos was a professor of sociology at Yale University and director of The Policy Lab. He is a Chicago native and earned his PhD from the University of Chicago.

Current Research

A Networked Approach to Gun Violence. A large part of Papachristos' research focuses on how gun violence is influenced by and gives shape to social and behavioral networks. This line of inquiry maintains that understanding who becomes a victim of gun violence requires analyzing not just individual or ecological risk factors, but also individuals’ social networks. His early research examined how networks among street gangs facilitate the social contagion of violence (American Journal of Sociology 2009; American Sociological Review 2013). Funding form the National Science Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation have allowed him to expand this research to consider individual victimization: Why particular people become victims of gun violence while others with similar sets of risk factors do not. Two key findings have emerged from this research. First, gun violence is more concentrated within social networks than within populations or places. For example, 70 percent of all gunshot injuries in Chicago occurred in networks containing less than 6 percent of the city’s population (Social Science & Medicine 2015; American Journal of Public Health 2014). Second, gunshot victimization diffuses through networks in a cascading fashion similar to an infectious disease, and network models offer a potential way to track the spread of victimization as it moves from person to person (e.g., JAMA Internal Medicine 2017). Additional lines of inquiry in this area are currently in various stages of analysis and production, including how such networks link geographic neighborhoods (American Journal of Sociology forthcoming).

The Capone Project. Papachristos is also involved in a historical study of organized crime in Prohibition-era Chicago. Prohibition marks a moment in U.S. history that fostered unprecedented integration of crime into legitimate society. To investigate the overlapping underworlds and upper worlds, Papachristos and Chris Smith of the University of California, Davis, created a relational database from archival materials that contains information on more than 14,000 social ties among more than 3,000 individuals, including gangsters as well as politicians, judges, cops, lawyers, wives, girlfriends, children, newspapermen, union bosses, fishing buddies, and hired help. A recent paper from this project examines how the overlap of networks provides a modicum of trust in a milieu where social institutions are poorly regulated and transactions carry murderous risks (American Sociological Review 2016).

How the Evolution of a Street Gang Changed a City. Papachristos is in the process of completing a manuscript that chronicles the natural history of the Gangster Disciples, one of Chicago’s largest and most organized street gangs. Over nearly five decades, this gang transformed from an innocuous cluster of neighborhood kids into one of the most organized and politicized criminal groups in Chicago’s history. Since its formation in the late 1950s, the Disciples have secured federal grants, run their own candidate for political office, met with two U.S. presidents, started several business ventures, and, at the same time, managed one of the largest street-level drug distribution operations in the country. During the apex of Chicago’s crack era, the Disciples and their affiliates boasted more than 30,000 members, franchises in seven other states, and were involved in at least 827 murders—roughly 300 more murders than the number attributed to organized crime during the heyday of Al Capone. The book, titled Street Corner, Inc.: How the Evolution of a Street Gang Changed a City, affords a unique opportunity to look at a spectrum of gang behaviors ranging from the mundane to the murderous and offers a unique lens to understand how one gang’s quest for legitimacy embedded such groups into the social fabric of the city. The manuscript is under contract at Oxford University Press.

Selected Publications

Green, B., T. Horel, and A. V. Papachristos. 2017. Modeling contagion through social networks to explain and predict gunshot violence in Chicago, 2006 to 2014JAMA Internal Medicine 177(3): 326–33.

Desmond, M., A. V. Papachristos, and D. Kirk. 2016. Police violence and citizen crime reporting in the black community. American Sociological Review 81(5): 857–76.

Papachristos, A. V., and D. Kirk. 2015. Changing the street dynamic. Criminology & Public Policy 14(3): 525–58.

Papachristos, A. V., C. Wildeman, and E. Roberto. 2015. Tragic, but not random: the social contagion of nonfatal gunshot injuries. Social Science & Medicine 125:139–150.

Papachristos, A. V., D. Hureau, and A. Braga. 2013. The corner and the crew: the influence of geography and social networks on gang violence. American Sociological Review 78(3): 417–47. 

Kirk, D., A. V. Papachristos, J. Fagan, and T. Tyler. 2012. The paradox of law enforcement in immigrant communities: Does tough immigration enforcement undermine public safety? The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 641(1): 79–98. 

Papachristos, A. V., C. Smith, M. Scherer, and M. Fugiero. 2011. More coffee, less crime? The relationship between gentrification and neighborhood crime rates in Chicago, 1991 to 2005. City & Community 10(3): 215–40. 

Papachristos, A. V. 2009. Murder by structure: Dominance relations and the social structure of gang homicide. American Journal of Sociology 115(1): 74–128.