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Crime and urban flight revisited: The effect of the 1990s drop in crime on cities


  • Ellen, Ingrid Gould
  • O'Regan, Katherine


The 'flight from blight' and related literatures on urban population changes and crime have primarily considered times of high or increasing crime rates. Perhaps the most cited recent work in this area, Cullen and Levitt (1999), does not extend through 1990s, a decade during which crime rates declined almost continuously, to levels that were lower than experienced in decades. This paper examines whether such declines contributed to city population growth and retention (abated flight). Through a series of population growth models that attempt to identify causality through several strategies (including instrumental variables) we find at best weak evidence that overall city growth is affected by changes in crime. We find no evidence that growth is differentially sensitive to reductions in crime, as compared to increases. Focusing more narrowly on within MSA migration, residential decisions that are more likely to be sensitive to local conditions, we do find evidence supporting abatement of 'flight' - that is, lower levels of crime in central cities in the 1990s are associated with lower levels of migration to the suburbs. This greater ability to retain residents already in the city does not appear to be accompanied by a greater ability to attract new households from the suburbs, or from outside of the metropolitan area.

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  • Ellen, Ingrid Gould & O'Regan, Katherine, 2010. "Crime and urban flight revisited: The effect of the 1990s drop in crime on cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 247-259, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:68:y:2010:i:3:p:247-259

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hymel, Kent, 2009. "Does traffic congestion reduce employment growth?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 127-135, March.
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    3. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt, 1999. "Crime, Urban Flight, And The Consequences For Cities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 159-169, May.
    4. Thomas A. Knapp & Nancy E. White & David E. Clark, 2001. "A Nested Logit Approach to Household Mobility," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 1-22.
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    6. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Further Tests of Abortion and Crime," NBER Working Papers 10564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Jordan, Stacy & Ross, John P. & Usowski, Kurt G., 1998. "U.S. suburbanization in the 1980s1," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 611-627, September.
    8. Pope, Jaren C., 2008. "Fear of crime and housing prices: Household reactions to sex offender registries," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 601-614, November.
    9. Gautier, Pieter A. & Siegmann, Arjen & Van Vuuren, Aico, 2009. "Terrorism and attitudes towards minorities: The effect of the Theo van Gogh murder on house prices in Amsterdam," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 113-126, March.
    10. Scott South & Kyle Crowder, 1997. "Residential mobility between cities and suburbs: race, suburbanization, and back-to-the-city moves," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 34(4), pages 525-538, November.
    11. Mills, Edwin S. & Price, Richard, 1984. "Metropolitan suburbanization and central city problems," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 1-17, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ingrid Gould Ellen & Keren Mertens Horn & Davin Reed, 2017. "Has Falling Crime Invited Gentrification?," Working Papers 17-27, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    2. Janke, K. & Propper, C. & Shields, M.A., 2013. "Does Violent Crime Deter Physical Activity?," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 13/26, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    3. Andrew Foote, 2015. "Decomposing the Effect of Crime on Population Changes," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(2), pages 705-728, April.
    4. Songman Kang, 2016. "Inequality and crime revisited: effects of local inequality and economic segregation on crime," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(2), pages 593-626, April.
    5. repec:eee:juecon:v:102:y:2017:i:c:p:22-33 is not listed on IDEAS


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