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NCVS Subnational Estimates


The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. The NCVS collects information on nonfatal personal crimes and household property crimes both reported and not reported to the police. Survey respondents provide demographic information about themselves and whether they experienced a victimization. For each victimization incident, the NCVS collects information about the offender (e.g., age, race and Hispanic origin, sex, and victim-offender relationship), characteristics of the crime (e.g., time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of the injury, and economic consequences), whether the crime was reported to police, reasons the crime was or was not reported, and victim experiences with the criminal justice system.

The NCVS was originally designed to provide national-level estimates of criminal victimization. Since its inception in 1973, BJS has recognized the need for victimization data at the state and/or local levels. The three major reviews of the NCVS program—Penick and Owens, 1976; Biderman et al., 1986; and Groves and Cork, 2008—point to the demand from local criminal justice administrators for empirical information and data on crime that they can use to inform policy and practice.

Interest in subnational victimization data is met with practical limitations in producing these data. The NCVS is a complex household survey, which involves about 240,000 interviews on criminal victimization, involving 160,000 unique persons in about 95,000 households each year. Administration of the NCVS to produce reliable national-level estimates is costly and can potentially involve the risk of disclosing sensitive information. These challenges are amplified in producing estimates for lower levels of geography. Thus, options for producing subnational victimization data through the NCVS require careful consideration.

Accordingly, BJS crafted plans to produce subnational crime data through multiple strategies and responses and supported research that demonstrated the NCVS can be enhanced to produce several types of subnational estimates. Since 2012, BJS worked with subject matter experts to develop various approaches for producing subnational victimization estimates, including:

  1. Boosting the NCVS sample size in large states to obtain direct state-level estimates
  2. Obtaining direct estimates in subnational areas using reweighting methodologies and existing NCVS data collected under the national design
  3. Modeling state-level estimates using existing NCVS sample and external sources of data
  4. Creating generic areas with geocoded identifiers
  5. Generating a cost-effective alternative local-area survey based on the NCVS for direct administration within subnational areas.

These approaches are illustrated in the figure below, and the relative benefits and limitations are summarized in Approaches to Subnational Estimation with the NCVS.

NCVS Subnational R&D

Approaches to Subnational Estimation with the NCVS



Date Created: March 25, 2022