Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=878132
 
 

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Gun Prevalence, Homicide Rates and Causality: A GMM Approach to Endogeneity Bias


Gary Kleck


Florida State University - School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Tomislav Victor Kovandzic


University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Justice Sciences

Mark E. Schaffer


Heriot-Watt University - Centre for Economic Reform and Transformation; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

November 2005

CEPR Discussion Paper No. 5357

Abstract:     
The positive correlation between gun prevalence and homicide rates has been widely documented. But does this correlation reflect a causal relationship? This study seeks to answer the question of whether more guns cause more crime, and unlike nearly all previous such studies, we properly account for the endogeneity of gun ownership levels. We discuss the three main sources of endogeneity bias - reverse causality (higher crime rates lead people to acquire guns for self-protection), mismeasurement of gun levels, and omitted/confounding variables - and show how the Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) can provide an empirical researcher with both a clear modeling framework and a set of estimation and specification testing procedures that can address these problems. A county level cross-sectional analysis was performed using data on every US county with a population of at least 25,000 in 1990; the sample covers over 90% of the US population in that year. Gun ownership levels were measured using the percent of suicides committed with guns, which recent research indicates is the best measure of gun levels for cross-sectional research. We apply our procedures to these data, and find strong evidence of the existence of endogeneity problems. When the problem is ignored, gun levels are associated with higher rates of gun homicide; when the problem is addressed, this association disappears or reverses. Our results indicate that gun prevalence has no significant net positive effect on homicide rates: ceteris paribus, more guns do not mean more crime.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

Keywords: Crime, homicide, gun levels, endogeneity, GMM, counties

JEL Classification: C51, C52, K42

working papers series


Date posted: January 24, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Kleck, Gary and Kovandzic, Tomislav Victor and Schaffer, Mark E., Gun Prevalence, Homicide Rates and Causality: A GMM Approach to Endogeneity Bias (November 2005). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 5357. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=878132

Contact Information

Gary Kleck
Florida State University - School of Criminology and Criminal Justice ( email )
425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States
Tomislav Victor Kovandzic
University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Justice Sciences ( email )
OB15 101
1530 3rd Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35294
United States
205-934-0668 (Phone)
205-934-2067 (Fax)
Mark E. Schaffer (Contact Author)
Heriot-Watt University - Centre for Economic Reform and Transformation ( email )
School of Management - Department of Economics
Edinburgh EH14 4AS
United Kingdom
+44 131 451 3494 (Phone)
+44 131 451 3008 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.hw.ac.uk/ecoWWW/cert
Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
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