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The Dynamics of Criminal Behavior: Evidence from Weather Shocks

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  • Jacob, Brian A.

    (Harvard U)

  • Lefgren, Lars

    (Brigham Young U)

  • Moretti, Enrico

    (U of California, Berkeley)

Abstract

The persistence of criminal activity is well documented. While such serial correlation may be evidence of social interactions in the production of crime, it may also be due to the persistence of unobserved determinants of crime. Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that, particularly over a short time horizon, there may actually be a negative relationship between crime rates in a particular area due to displacement. In this paper, we exploit the correlation between weather and crime to examine the short-run dynamics of criminal behavior. Drawing on crime-level data from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, we construct a panel of weekly crime data for 116 jurisdictions. Using the plausibly exogenous variation in lagged crime rates due to unexpected weather shocks, we find that the strong positive serial correlation documented in OLS is reversed. A ten percent increase in violent crime in one week is associated with a 2.6 percent reduction in crime the following week. The corresponding reduction for property crime is 2.0 percent. Additional displacement appears to occur over a longer time horizon. Furthermore, the results do not appear to be driven by persistence in weather conditions over time or displacement of non-criminal economic activity. These findings suggest that the long-run impact of temporary crime prevention efforts may be smaller than the short-run effects.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp05-003.

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Date of creation: Jan 2005
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp05-003

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  1. Jeff Grogger & Charles Michalopoulos, 1999. "Welfare Dynamics Under Time Limits," NBER Working Papers 7353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sah, R.K., 1990. "Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis," Papers 609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  3. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply Of New York Cab Drivers," Working Papers 110, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  5. Lochner, L., 1999. "Education, Work, and Crime: Theory and Evidence," RCER Working Papers 465, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  6. Martha Starr-McCluer, 2000. "The effects of weather on retail sales," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-08, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 5026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2003. "Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration, and Juvenile Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1560-1577, December.
  9. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig & Lawrence F. Katz, 2004. "Youth Criminal Behavior In The Moving To Opportunity Experiment," Working Papers 248, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  10. Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cab Drivers," Working Papers 852, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. Lawrence Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig, 2004. "Youth Criminal Behavior in the Moving to Opportunity Experiment," Working Papers 861, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  12. Henry Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York Cab Drivers," NBER Working Papers 9706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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