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Broken windows and crime in development challenged urban areas: Evidence from Jackson, Mississippi USA


  • Gregory N. Price

    (Morehouse College, USA)


As crime is potentially harmful for the economic development and growth of cities, insights into the causal factors of crime can inform policy interventions that could catalyze urban economic growth and development. This paper adds to the empirical literature on the Broken Windows hypothesis by examining the possibly causal effects that housing stock quality associated with disorder has on crime at the urban neighborhood level. Crime is fundamentally spatial in nature in the sense that it takes place in particular spaces such as neighborhoods. Crime may also correspond to particular environmental characteristics of neighborhoods if individual criminal activity reflects optimizing behavior based upon signals that convey tolerance for crime in a particular environment. The Broken Window Hypothesis posits that criminals optimize conditional on the characteristics of a neighborhood that the criminal perceives to be measures of the extent to which a particular neighborhood cares about or tolerates criminal activity. If criminals engage in rational inference, they can percieve that a neighborhood’s housing characeristics are correlated with a neighborhood’s tolerance for criminal activity and disorder, and the housing characteristic become an input into a crime decision problem. The individual decision to commit a crime can be viewed as a game in which there are neighborhoods among a continuum of types that signal the extent to which crime is tolerated in a neighborhood. With data on police reported crime across census blocks and neighborhoods in the city of Jackson Mississippi, we estimate the parameters of Poisson specifications of the optimal decision to commit a crime conditional on a neighborhood’s housing stock quality and characteristics. We find that overall crime increases with a neighborhood’s level of vacant housing, housing stock age, and housing occupancy turnover as parameter estimates show that consistent with the Broken Windows hypothesis, total neighborhood crime increases with respect to changes in housing stock quality that indicate neighborhood degradation. Our results suggest that there is significant scope for urban housing policy interventions to improve public safety, which could catalyze urban economic growth in development challenged urban areas. In general, our findings support housing policy interventions that improve an urban neighborhood’s housing stock quality, as it reduces individual incentives to engage in criminaly activity and the crime rate. Such interventions could catalyze urban economic growth, as crime rates are inversely related to economic growth and mitigate and/or eliminate the development challenges of adverse race-based economic and social outcomes associated with individuals located in urban and city geographies in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory N. Price, 2016. "Broken windows and crime in development challenged urban areas: Evidence from Jackson, Mississippi USA," Journal of Developing Areas, Tennessee State University, College of Business, vol. 50(3), pages 209-220, July-Sept.
  • Handle: RePEc:jda:journl:vol.50:year:2016:issue3:pp:209-220

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    Cited by:

    1. Batabyal, Amitrajeet A. & Kourtit, Karima & Nijkamp, Peter, 2020. "A political-economy analysis of the provision of urban anti-crime technologies in a model with three cities," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 160(C).

    More about this item


    Urban Crime; Housing Stock Quality; Urban Economic Development;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • O29 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Other
    • R31 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Housing Supply and Markets


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