In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Collective Efficacy

  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Underpinnings
  • Foundational Studies and Overviews for Neighborhood Collective Efficacy
  • Determinants of Collective Efficacy
  • Social Networks and Collective Efficacy
  • The Measurement Challenges of Collective Efficacy
  • Disorder, Crime, and Collective Efficacy
  • Perception of Crime, Fear, and Place Attachment
  • Exposure to Violence and Victimization
  • Consequences for Youth Behaviors
  • Schools
  • Collective Efficacy and Crime outside of the United States
  • Public Health
  • Substance Abuse

Criminology Collective Efficacy
Adam Boessen, Alysson Gatens
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0205


Collective efficacy is one of the most influential developments in the neighborhoods literature in the last two decades. As noted in Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect by Robert J. Sampson (Sampson 2012, cited under Foundational Studies and Overviews for Neighborhood Collective Efficacy), collective efficacy is the combination of a neighborhood’s social cohesion and perceptions of shared expectations for informal social control. It was first theoretically conceptualized and tested in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods by Robert Sampson and colleagues. Since this study, collective efficacy has been examined in a number of cities in the United States and in several other cities around the globe. While most collective efficacy research has focused on neighborhood crime, a wide range of areas have examined collective efficacy and its consequences for individual behaviors, individual perceptions, and neighborhood processes, including disorder, fear of crime, youth delinquency, substance abuse, health, and schools. More recently, many researchers have explored its connection with social networks, as well as the factors that build collective efficacy in communities.

Theoretical Underpinnings

The theoretical underpinnings for neighborhood collective efficacy stem from many literatures and several scholars, and we note two particular strands here. First, collective efficacy builds on Bandura 1982 from social psychology, and it focuses on how environments shape individual decision-making. Bandura 2000 provides a general theoretical overview of the interplay between individual agency and collective efficacy. Second, collective efficacy stems directly from the neighborhoods and crime literature. The social disorganization theory promulgated in Shaw and McKay 1942 examines how Chicago and neighborhoods change over decades. Building on this work, Bursik and Grasmick 1993 examines the systemic aspects of networks and neighborhoods.

  • Bandura, Albert. 1982. Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist 37.2: 122–147.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.37.2.122

    This paper reviews Bandura’s concepts of self-efficacy and collective efficacy. Collective efficacy is conceptualized as mutual support and effort of others, and it is argued to have a driving role in affecting social change.

  • Bandura, Albert. 2000. Exercise of human agency through collective efficacy. Current Directions in Psychological Science 9.3: 75–78.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-8721.00064

    This brief paper provides several useful theoretical insights for how individuals perceive the collective potential of their environment.

  • Bursik, Robert J., Jr., and Harold G. Grasmick. 1993. Neighborhoods & crime: The dimensions of effective community control. New York: Lexington Books.

    Bridging social disorganization theory and the systemic theory, this classic book provides foundational insight to work on neighborhood social processes and their consequences for crime.

  • Shaw, Clifford R., and Henry D. McKay. 1942. Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Shaw and McKay’s groundbreaking work over decades in Chicago provides many theoretical underpinnings to collective efficacy. Neighborhood collective efficacy helps to bridge the gap between social disorganization and perceptions for action and cohesion.

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