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Is Crime Contagious?

  • Jens Ludwig
  • Jeffrey R. Kling

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 by site interactions as instruments 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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File URL: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?id=doi:10.1086/519807
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 50 (2007)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 491-518

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:50:y:2007:p:491-518
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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  2. Sah, R.K., 1990. "Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis," Papers 609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
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  13. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig & Lawrence F. Katz, 2005. "Neighborhood Effects on Crime for Female and Male Youth: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 87-130, January.
  14. S Black & Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes, 2005. "The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Childrens Education," CEE Discussion Papers 0050, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
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  28. repec:att:wimass:9127 is not listed on IDEAS
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  30. 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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