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The Effects of School Desegregation on Crime

Author

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  • David A. Weiner
  • Byron F. Lutz
  • Jens Ludwig

Abstract

One of the most striking features of crime in America is its disproportionate concentration in disadvantaged, racially segregated communities, which has long raised concern that segregation itself may contribute to criminal behavior. Yet little is known about whether government efforts to reduce segregation can reduce crime. We address this question by studying the most important large-scale policy to reduce segregation in American life - court-ordered school desegregation. Our research design exploits variation across large urban school districts in the timing of when they were subject to local Federal court orders to desegregate. We find that for black youth, homicide victimization declines by around 25 percent when court orders are implemented; homicide arrests decline significantly as well. We also find evidence for spillover effects on other age and race groups, consistent with data indicating a sizable amount of offending across groups and with the fact that offending by different groups is also linked through the police budget constraint. Economic models for a "market for offenses" suggest the influence of this second mechanism should attenuate over time as victims respond to a shift in the supply of offenses by reducing investments in crime prevention. Consistent with this theory, we find police spending declines several years after court desegregation orders are enacted. The only detectable life-course-persistent effects are found among birth cohorts that attended desegregated schools.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Weiner & Byron F. Lutz & Jens Ludwig, 2009. "The Effects of School Desegregation on Crime," NBER Working Papers 15380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15380
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:jopoec:v:31:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0662-z is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Grönqvist, Hans & Niknami, Susan, 2014. "Alcohol availability and crime: Lessons from liberalized weekend sales restrictions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 77-84.
    3. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2013. "Human capital in the inner city," Working Paper 1302, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    4. Robert Bifulco & Leonard M. Lopoo & Sun Jung Oh, 2013. "The Effects of School Desegregation on Teenage Fertility," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 157, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    5. repec:spr:empeco:v:53:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s00181-016-1160-y is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Javier Cano-Urbina & Lance Lochner, 2016. "The Effect of Education and School Quality on Female Crime," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20163, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
    7. Nora Gordon & Sarah Reber, 2016. "The Effects of School Desegregation on Mixed-Race Births," NBER Working Papers 22480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lance Lochner, 2010. "Education Policy and Crime," NBER Chapters,in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 465-515 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Sara Heller & Harold A. Pollack & Roseanna Ander & Jens Ludwig, 2013. "Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 19014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Sara B. Heller & Brian A. Jacob & Jens Ludwig, 2010. "Family Income, Neighborhood Poverty, and Crime," NBER Chapters,in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 419-459 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Randi Hjalmarsson & Lance Lochner, 2012. "The Impact of Education on Crime: International Evidence," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(2), pages 49-55, 08.
    12. Sara B. Heller & Anuj K. Shah & Jonathan Guryan & Jens Ludwig & Sendhil Mullainathan & Harold A. Pollack, 2015. "Thinking, Fast and Slow? Some Field Experiments to Reduce Crime and Dropout in Chicago," NBER Working Papers 21178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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