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Partners in Crime: Schools, Neighborhoods and the Formation of Criminal Networks


  • Stephen B. Billings

    (University of North Carolina-Charlotte)

  • David J. Deming

    (Harvard University)

  • Stephen L. Ross

    (University of Connecticut)


Why do crime rates differ greatly across neighborhoods and schools? Comparing youth who were assigned to opposite sides of newly drawn school boundaries, we show that concentrating disadvantaged youth together in the same schools and neighborhoods increases total crime. We then show that these youth are more likely to be arrested for committing crimes together – to be “partners in crime”. Our results suggest that direct peer interaction is a key mechanism for social multipliers in criminal behavior. As a result, policies that increase residential and school segregation will – all else equal – increase crime through the formation of denser criminal networks.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen B. Billings & David J. Deming & Stephen L. Ross, 2016. "Partners in Crime: Schools, Neighborhoods and the Formation of Criminal Networks," Working papers 2016-03, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2016-03

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen B. Billings & Jonah Rockoff, 2014. "School Segregation, Educational Attainment, and Crime: Evidence from the End of Busing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 435-476.
    2. Jens Ludwig & Greg J. Duncan & Paul Hirschfield, 2001. "Urban Poverty and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from a Randomized Housing-Mobility Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 655-679.
    3. David J. Deming, 2011. "Better Schools, Less Crime?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 2063-2115.
    4. Patrick Bayer & Stephen L. Ross & Giorgio Topa, 2008. "Place of Work and Place of Residence: Informal Hiring Networks and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1150-1196, December.
    5. Antoni Calvó-Armengol & Eleonora Patacchini & Yves Zenou, 2009. "Peer Effects and Social Networks in Education," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1239-1267.
    6. Anna Piil Damm & Christian Dustmann, 2014. "Does Growing Up in a High Crime Neighborhood Affect Youth Criminal Behavior?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1806-1832, June.
    7. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig & Lawrence F. Katz, 2005. "Neighborhood Effects on Crime for Female and Male Youth: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 87-130.
    8. Jens Ludwig & Jeffrey R. Kling, 2007. "Is Crime Contagious?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 491-518.
    9. Cullen, Julie Berry & Jacob, Brian A. & Levitt, Steven D., 2005. "The impact of school choice on student outcomes: an analysis of the Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 729-760, June.
    10. Charles F. Manski, 2000. "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 115-136, Summer.
    11. Jason M. Fletcher & Stephen L. Ross, 2011. "Estimating the Effects of Friendship Networks on Health Behaviors of Adolescents," Working papers 2011-26, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    12. Mark Grinblatt & Matti Keloharju & Seppo Ikäheimo, 2008. "Social Influence and Consumption: Evidence from the Automobile Purchases of Neighbors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 735-753, November.
    13. Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson & David Pozen, 2009. "Building Criminal Capital behind Bars: Peer Effects in Juvenile Corrections," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 105-147.
    14. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
    15. Bruce A. Weinberg, 2007. "Social Interactions with Endogenous Associations," NBER Working Papers 13038, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    Youth Crime; Schools; Criminal Partnerships; Neighborhood Effects; Social Interactions;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis

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