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The Dynamics of Criminal Behavior: Evidence from Weather Shocks

  • Brian Jacob
  • Lars Lefgren
  • Enrico Moretti

The persistence of criminal activity is well documented. While such serial correlation may be evidence of social interactions in the production of crime, it may also be due to the persistence of unobserved determinants of crime. Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that, particularly over a short time horizon, there may actually be a negative relationship between crime rates in a particular area due to displacement. In this paper, we exploit the correlation between weather and crime to examine the short-run dynamics of criminal behavior. Drawing on crime-level data from the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System, we construct a panel of weekly crime data for 116 jurisdictions. Using the plausibly exogenous variation in lagged crime rates due to unexpected weather shocks, we find that the strong positive serial correlation documented in OLS is reversed. A ten percent increase in violent crime in one week is associated with a 2.6 percent reduction in crime the following week. The corresponding reduction for property crime is 2.0 percent. Additional displacement appears to occur over a longer time horizon. Furthermore, the results do not appear to be driven by persistence in weather conditions over time or displacement of non-criminal economic activity. These findings suggest that the long-run impact of temporary crime prevention efforts may be smaller than the short-run effects.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10739.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10739.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Publication status: published as Brian Jacob & Lars Lefgren & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "The Dynamics of Criminal Behavior: Evidence from Weather Shocks," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10739
Note: PE LS
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  1. Lochner, L., 1999. "Education, Work, and Crime: Theory and Evidence," RCER Working Papers 465, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Lawrence Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig, 2004. "Youth Criminal Behavior in the Moving to Opportunity Experiment," Working Papers 861, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  3. Sah, R.K., 1990. "Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis," Papers 609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  4. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  5. Henry Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York Cab Drivers," NBER Working Papers 9706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply Of New York Cab Drivers," Working Papers 110, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  7. Jeff Grogger & Charles Michalopoulos, 1999. "Welfare Dynamics Under Time Limits," NBER Working Papers 7353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Glaeser, Edward L & Sacerdote, Bruce & Scheinkman, Jose A, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-48, May.
  9. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig & Lawrence F. Katz, 2004. "Youth Criminal Behavior In The Moving To Opportunity Experiment," Working Papers 248, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  10. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2003. "Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration and Juvenile Crime," NBER Working Papers 9653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Martha Starr-McCluer, 2000. "The effects of weather on retail sales," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-08, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cab Drivers," Working Papers 852, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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