In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cross-National Crime

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Survey Data Sources
  • Temporal Changes in Crime Rates
  • Homicide Research
  • Violence against Women
  • Other Crime Types

Criminology Cross-National Crime
Janet Stamatel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 September 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0082


The terms “cross-national criminology,” “international criminology,” and “comparative criminology” are often used interchangeably to describe criminological research that concerns a nation other than the researchers’ native country. However, cross-national criminology has a more specific meaning. It emphasizes explicit comparisons of amounts and types of crime across two or more countries; therefore, most single-country criminological studies are excluded from this article. The goals of cross-national research are typically to provide an understanding of crime patterns and trends around the world, to seek explanations for the uneven distribution of crime across countries, to test existing criminological theories in diverse settings, and to inform further theoretical development by considering a wide array of social, political, and cultural contexts. Cross-national criminology emphasizes macro-level conditions that influence criminal behavior. Many cross-national crime studies tend to be quantitative and usually include as many countries as there are available data, leading to cautions about geographic representation and generalizability of results.

General Overviews

Few contemporary books or textbooks deal specifically with the subject of cross-national criminology, although there are more on cross-national criminal justice systems and transnational crimes. The selections here highlight the value of studying crime cross-nationally and are good places for the uninitiated to familiarize themselves with the main issues of this subfield and what it has to offer the broader field of criminology. The book chapter Lynch and Pridemore 2011 is a concise but thorough evaluation of the promises and challenges of international crime research. Stamatel 2009 also provides a brief overview of the state of the field, with different emphases than Lynch and Pridemore 2011. Natarajan 2011; Smith, et al. 2011; and Shoham, et al. 2010 are edited books that provide the most comprehensive overviews of criminology through an international lens. Neapolitan 1997 and Beirne and Nelken 1997 are dated publications, but they are valuable summaries of the state of the field through the 1990s. LaFree 2007 and Zimring 2006 are treatises by leaders in criminology encouraging the field to pay more attention to cross-national research.

  • Beirne, Piers, and David Nelken. 1997. Issues in comparative criminology. International Library of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Penology. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

    This is a compilation of previously published articles in comparative criminology, covering the purpose of comparative work, measuring crime comparative, and treating varieties of comparative criminology. A convenient way to read about the important ideas of the field at that time.

  • LaFree, Gary. 2007. Expanding criminology’s domain: The American Society of Criminology 2006 presidential address. Criminology 45.1: 1–31.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2007.00070.x

    A past president of the American Society of Criminology argues that the field of criminology should expand in five directions, one of which is cross-national analysis. Discusses four ways in which the entire discipline of criminology can benefit from comparative research.

  • Lynch, James P., and William Alex Pridemore. 2011. Crime in international perspective. In Crime and public policy. Edited by James Q. Wilson and Joan Petersilia, 5–52. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    This book chapter, written by two renowned international criminologists, debunks common myths about crime in the United States using international comparisons. It also discusses the current state of cross-national knowledge on crime and punishment.

  • Natarajan, Mangai, ed. 2011. International crime and justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This edited volume contains entries from international scholars on the topics of international criminology, crime control, transnational crimes, organized crime, terrorism, international crimes, and international justice.

  • Neapolitan, Jerome L. 1997. Cross-national crime: A research review and sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

    Although this sourcebook is dated, it is still a thorough overview of the main issues of cross-national criminology and a summary of the existing literature at that time. It is a good place to begin to study the field.

  • Shoham, Shlomo Giora, Paul Knepper, and Martin Kett, eds. 2010. International handbook of criminology. Boca Raton, FL: CRC.

    This handbook is composed of entries from international scholars on five main areas of international criminology: theoretical and historical frameworks, methods, special topics, responses to crime, and the relationships among crime, victims, and social divisions.

  • Smith, Cindy J., Sheldon X. Zhang, and Rosemary Barberet, eds. 2011. Routledge handbook of international criminology. New York: Routledge.

    This comprehensive text covers methods and theories of international criminology, special topics like cybercrime, trafficking in antiquities, and drug trafficking, and assessments of crime and justice in a diverse groups of twenty countries.

  • Stamatel, Janet P. 2009. Contributions of cross-national research at the beginning of the 21st century. In Handbook on crime and deviance. Edited by Marvin Krohn, Alan Lizotte, and Gina Penly-Hall, 3–22. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0245-0_1

    This chapter highlights the value of cross-national research for the larger field of criminology and discusses methodological and theoretical challenges and future directions for research.

  • Zimring, Frank E. 2006. The necessity and value of transnational comparative study: Some preaching from a recent convert. Criminology and Public Policy 5.4: 615–622.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2006.00407.x

    Argues that comparative research is necessary to understand whether the United States is unique with respect to crime and social control. Uses the difficulties of explaining the American crime drop as one of his examples.

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