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The effect of violent crime on economic mobility

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  • Sharkey, Patrick
  • Torrats-Espinosa, Gerard

Abstract

Recent evidence has found substantial geographic variation in the level of upward economic mobility across US states, metropolitan areas, commuting zones, and counties. However, minimal progress has been made in identifying the key mechanisms that help explain why some urban areas have low rates of upward mobility while others have rates of upward mobility that resemble the most mobile nations in the developed world. In this article we focus attention on one specific dimension of urban areas, the level of violent crime. Using longitudinal data and an array of empirical approaches, we find strong evidence that the level of violent crime in a county has a causal effect on the level of upward economic mobility among individuals raised in families at the 25th percentile of the income distribution. We find that a one standard deviation decline in violent crime as experienced during late adolescence increases the expected income rank in adulthood by at least 2 points. Similarly, a one standard deviation decline in the murder rate increases the expected income rank by roughly 1.5 points. These effect sizes are statistically and economically significant. Although we are limited in our capacity to provide evidence on the mechanisms explaining the link between crime and mobility, we present suggestive results showing that the decline in the violent crime rate reduced the prevalence of high school dropouts at the county level between 1990 and 2010.

Suggested Citation

  • Sharkey, Patrick & Torrats-Espinosa, Gerard, 2017. "The effect of violent crime on economic mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 22-33.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:102:y:2017:i:c:p:22-33
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2017.07.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Muñoz, Ercio, 2021. "Does it Matter Where You Grow up? Childhood Exposure Effects in Latin America and the Caribbean," Research Department working papers 1843, CAF Development Bank Of Latinamerica.
    3. O'Brien, Rourke L. & Neman, Tiffany & Rudolph, Kara & Casey, Joan & Venkataramani, Atheendar, 2018. "Prenatal exposure to air pollution and intergenerational economic mobility: Evidence from U.S. county birth cohorts," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 217(C), pages 92-96.
    4. Grossman, Daniel & Khalil, Umair, 2022. "Neighborhood crime and infant health," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C).
    5. Robert J Sampson, 2019. "Neighbourhood effects and beyond: Explaining the paradoxes of inequality in the changing American metropolis," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 56(1), pages 3-32, January.
    6. Aaronson, Daniel & Faber, Jacob & Hartley, Daniel & Mazumder, Bhashkar & Sharkey, Patrick, 2021. "The long-run effects of the 1930s HOLC “redlining” maps on place-based measures of economic opportunity and socioeconomic success," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    7. Clemens, Michael A., 2021. "Violence, development, and migration waves: Evidence from Central American child migrant apprehensions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C).
    8. Hennig, Jan-Luca, 2021. "Labor Market Polarization and Intergenerational Mobility: Theory and Evidence," VfS Annual Conference 2021 (Virtual Conference): Climate Economics 242353, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Handy, Christopher & Shester, Katharine, 2020. "Accounting for Changes in Intergenerational Mobility," MPRA Paper 102425, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, 2020. "Crime and Inequality in Academic Achievement Across School Districts in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(1), pages 123-145, February.
    11. Eriksen, Jesper & Munk, Martin D., 2020. "The geography of intergenerational mobility — Danish evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    12. Cavit Baran & Eric Chyn & Bryan A. Stuart, 2022. "The Great Migration and Educational Opportunity," Upjohn Working Papers 22-367, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    13. Dale T. Manning & Jesse Burkhardt, 2022. "The local effects of federal law enforcement policies: Evidence from sanctuary jurisdictions and crime," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(3), pages 423-438, July.
    14. Tong, Lijing & Wu, Bin & Zhang, Min, 2022. "Do auditors’ early-life socioeconomic opportunities improve audit quality? Evidence from China," The British Accounting Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic mobility; Violent crime; Instrumental variables;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • C36 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Instrumental Variables (IV) Estimation

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