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Is Crime Contagious?

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Author Info

  • Ludwig, Jens

    ()
    (University of Chicago)

  • Kling, Jeffrey R.

    ()
    (Brookings Institution)

Abstract

Understanding whether criminal behavior is “contagious” is important for law enforcement and for policies that affect how people are sorted across social settings. We test the hypothesis that criminal behavior is contagious by using data from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) randomized housing-mobility experiment to examine the extent to which lower local-area crime rates decrease arrest rates among individuals. Our analysis exploits the fact that the effect of treatment group assignment yields different types of neighborhood changes across the five MTO demonstration sites. We use treatment-site interactions to instrument for measures of neighborhood crime rates, poverty and racial segregation in our analysis of individual arrest outcomes. We are unable to detect evidence in support of the contagion hypothesis. Neighborhood racial segregation appears to be the most important explanation for across-neighborhood variation in arrests for violent crimes in our sample, perhaps because drug market activity is more common in high-minority neighborhoods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2213.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2213

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Keywords: endogenous effects; social multiplier; arrests; social experiment;

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  1. Ludwig, Jens & Kling, Jeffrey R., 2006. "Is Crime Contagious?," IZA Discussion Papers 2213, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  18. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  25. Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effects of Police on Crime: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1244-1250, September.
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