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Gentrification and the Amenity Value of Crime Reductions: Evidence from Rent Deregulation

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  • David H. Autor
  • Christopher J. Palmer
  • Parag A. Pathak

Abstract

Gentrification involves large-scale neighborhood change whereby new residents and improved amenities increase property values. In this paper, we study whether and how much public safety improvements are capitalized by the housing market after an exogenous shock to the gentrification process. We use variation induced by the sudden end of rent control in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1995 to examine within-Cambridge variation in reported crime across neighborhoods with different rent-control levels, abstracting from the prevailing city-wide decline in criminal activity. Using detailed location-specific incident-level criminal activity data assembled from Cambridge Police Department archives for the years 1992 through 2005, we find robust evidence that rent decontrol caused overall crime to fall by 16 percent—approximately 1,200 reported crimes annually—with the majority of the effect accruing through reduced property crime. By applying external estimates of criminal victimization’s economic costs, we calculate that the crime reduction due to rent deregulation generated approximately $10 million (in 2008 dollars) of annual direct benefit to potential victims. Capitalizing this benefit into property values, this crime reduction accounts for 15 percent of the contemporaneous growth in the Cambridge residential property values that is attributable to rent decontrol. Our findings establish that reductions in crime are an important part of gentrification and generate substantial economic value. They also show that standard cost-of-crime estimates are within the bounds imposed by the aggregate price appreciation due to rent decontrol.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & Christopher J. Palmer & Parag A. Pathak, 2017. "Gentrification and the Amenity Value of Crime Reductions: Evidence from Rent Deregulation," NBER Working Papers 23914, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23914
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599.
    2. Aliprantis, Dionissi & Hartley, Daniel, 2015. "Blowing it up and knocking it down: The local and city-wide effects of demolishing high concentration public housing on crime," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 67-81.
    3. Kenneth Y. Chay & Michael Greenstone, 2005. "Does Air Quality Matter? Evidence from the Housing Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 376-424, April.
    4. Bowes, David R. & Ihlanfeldt, Keith R., 2001. "Identifying the Impacts of Rail Transit Stations on Residential Property Values," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 1-25, July.
    5. Patrick Bajari & C. Lanier Benkard, 2005. "Demand Estimation with Heterogeneous Consumers and Unobserved Product Characteristics: A Hedonic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1239-1276, December.
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    7. Tommy Andersson & Lars‐Gunnar Svensson, 2014. "Non‐Manipulable House Allocation With Rent Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(2), pages 507-539, March.
    8. Bartik, Timothy J, 1987. "The Estimation of Demand Parameters in Hedonic Price Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 81-88, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mense, Andreas & Michelsen, Claus & Cholodilin, Konstantin, 2019. "Rent control, market segmentation, and misallocation: Causal evidence from a large-scale policy intervention," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 06/2019, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
    2. Kacie Dragan & Ingrid Ellen & Sherry A. Glied, 2019. "Does Gentrification Displace Poor Children? New Evidence from New York City Medicaid Data," NBER Working Papers 25809, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • R28 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Government Policy

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