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Why Is There More Crime in Cities?

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Bruce Sacerdote

Abstract

Crime rates are much higher in big cities than in either small cities or rural areas, and this situation has been relatively pervasive for several centuries. This paper attempts to explain this connection by using victimization data, evidence from the NLSY on criminal behavior and the Uniform Crime Reports. Higher pecuniary benefits for crime in large cities can explain approximately 27% of the effect for overall crime, though obviously much less of the urban- crime connection for non-pecuniary crimes such as rape or assault. Lower arrest probabilities, and lower probability of recognition, are a feature of urban life, but these factors seem to explain at most 20% of the urban crime effect. The remaining 45-60% of the effect can be related to observable characteristics of individuals and cities. The characteristics that seem most important are those that reflect tastes, social influences and family structure. Ultimately, we can say that the urban crime premium is associated with these characteristics, but we are left trying to explain why these characteristics are connected with urban living.
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Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 225-258, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:107:y:1999:i:s6:p:s225-s258
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    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
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    6. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-372, July.
    7. Case, A.C. & Katz, L.F., 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects Of Family And Neighborhood On Disadvantaged Younths," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1555, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General

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