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The Effects of School Desegregation on Crime

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  • David A. Weiner
  • Byron F. Lutz
  • Jens Ludwig
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    Abstract

    One of the most striking features of crime in America is its disproportionate concentration in disadvantaged, racially segregated communities, which has long raised concern that segregation itself may contribute to criminal behavior. Yet little is known about whether government efforts to reduce segregation can reduce crime. We address this question by studying the most important large-scale policy to reduce segregation in American life - court-ordered school desegregation. Our research design exploits variation across large urban school districts in the timing of when they were subject to local Federal court orders to desegregate. We find that for black youth, homicide victimization declines by around 25 percent when court orders are implemented; homicide arrests decline significantly as well. We also find evidence for spillover effects on other age and race groups, consistent with data indicating a sizable amount of offending across groups and with the fact that offending by different groups is also linked through the police budget constraint. Economic models for a "market for offenses" suggest the influence of this second mechanism should attenuate over time as victims respond to a shift in the supply of offenses by reducing investments in crime prevention. Consistent with this theory, we find police spending declines several years after court desegregation orders are enacted. The only detectable life-course-persistent effects are found among birth cohorts that attended desegregated schools.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15380.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15380

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    Cited by:
    1. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2013. "Human capital in the inner city," Working Paper 1302, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    2. Grönqvist, Hans & Niknami, Susan, 2014. "Alcohol availability and crime: Lessons from liberalized weekend sales restrictions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 77-84.
    3. Sara B. Heller & Brian A. Jacob & Jens Ludwig, 2010. "Family Income, Neighborhood Poverty, and Crime," NBER Chapters, in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 419-459 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Randi Hjalmarsson & Lance Lochner, 2012. "The Impact of Education on Crime: International Evidence," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(2), pages 49-55, 08.
    5. Robert Bifulco & Leonard M. Lopoo & Sun Jung Oh, 2013. "The Effects of School Desegregation on Teenage Fertility," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 157, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    6. O'Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2010. "Homicide in black and white," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 215-230, November.
    7. Sara Heller & Harold A. Pollack & Roseanna Ander & Jens Ludwig, 2013. "Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 19014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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