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The L.A. Riot and the Economics of Urban Unrest

  • Denise DiPasquale
  • Edward L. Glaeser

The Los Angeles riot of 1992 resulted in 52 deaths, 2,500 injuries and at least $446 million in property damage; this staggering toll rekindled interest in understanding the underlying causes of the widespread social phenomenon of rioting. We examine the causes of rioting using international data, evidence from the race riots of the 1960s in the U.S., and Census data on Los Angeles, 1990. We find some support for the notions that the opportunity costs of time and the potential costs of punishment influence the incidence and intensity of riots. Beyond these individual costs and benefits, community structure matters. In our results, ethnic diversity seems a significant determinant of rioting, while we find little evidence that poverty in the community matters.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5456.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5456.

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Date of creation: Feb 1996
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Publication status: Published as "The Los Angeles Riot and the Economics of Urban Unrest", JUE, Vol. 43, no. 1 (January 1998): 52-78.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5456
Note: LS
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  1. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Alberto F. Ades & Edward L. Glaeser, 1994. "Trade and Circuses: Explaining Urban Giants," NBER Working Papers 4715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alesina, Alberto & Perotti, Roberto, 1996. "Income distribution, political instability, and investment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 1203-1228, June.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521314985 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  6. Timur Kuran, 1989. "Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(1), pages 41-74, April.
  7. Grossman, Herschel I, 1991. "A General Equilibrium Model of Insurrections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 912-21, September.
  8. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
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