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The Urban Crime and Heat Gradient in High and Low Poverty Areas


  • Kilian Heilmann
  • Matthew E. Kahn


We use spatially disaggregated daily crime data for the City of Los Angeles to measure the impact of heat and pollution on crime and to study how this relationship varies across the city. On average, overall crime increases by 2.2% and violent crime by 5.7% on days with maximum daily temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4° C) compared to days below that threshold. The heat-crime relationship is more pronounced in low-income neighborhoods. This suggests that heat shocks can increase spatial urban quality of life differences through their effect on crime. We use other administrative data and find some evidence that policing intensity declines on extremely hot days. These findings highlight that the quality of urban governance during times of extreme stress may be an important policy lever in helping all socio-economic groups adapt to climate change.

Suggested Citation

  • Kilian Heilmann & Matthew E. Kahn, 2019. "The Urban Crime and Heat Gradient in High and Low Poverty Areas," NBER Working Papers 25961, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25961
    Note: EEE PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zhang, Peng & Deschenes, Olivier & Meng, Kyle & Zhang, Junjie, 2018. "Temperature effects on productivity and factor reallocation: Evidence from a half million chinese manufacturing plants," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 1-17.
    2. Denise DiPasquale & Matthew E. Kahn, 1999. "Measuring Neighborhood Investments: An Examination of Community Choice," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 27(3), pages 389-424, September.
    3. Nevin, Rick, 2007. "Understanding international crime trends: The legacy of preschool lead exposure," MPRA Paper 35338, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Tatyana Deryugina & Solomon M. Hsiang, 2014. "Does the Environment Still Matter? Daily Temperature and Income in the United States," NBER Working Papers 20750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ingvild Almås & Maximilian Auffhammer & Tessa Bold & Ian Bolliger & Aluma Dembo & Solomon M. Hsiang & Shuhei Kitamura & Edward Miguel & Robert Pickmans, 2019. "Destructive Behavior, Judgment, and Economic Decision-making under Thermal Stress," NBER Working Papers 25785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. David Laibson, 2001. "A Cue-Theory of Consumption," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 81-119.
    7. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-290, June.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. JHU's 21st Century Cities Initiative
      by Matthew E. Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2019-07-26 13:55:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Henke & Lin-chi Hsu, 2020. "The gender wage gap, weather, and intimate partner violence," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 413-429, June.
    2. Garg, Teevrat & McCord, Gordon C. & Montfort, Aleister, 2020. "Can Social Protection Reduce Environmental Damages?," IZA Discussion Papers 13247, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Nadezdha Baryshnikova & Shannon. F. Davidson & Dennis Wesselbaum, 2019. "Do you Feel the Heat Around the Corner? The Effect of Weather on Crime," School of Economics Working Papers 2019-07, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
    4. Gunadi, Christian, 2019. "The legacy of slavery on hate crime in the United States," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(4), pages 339-344.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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