The Effects of School Desegregation on Crime

98 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2009 Last revised: 18 Aug 2010

See all articles by David A. Weiner

David A. Weiner

University of Pennsylvania

Byron F. Lutz

Federal Reserve Board - Research Division

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: September 2009

Abstract

One of the most striking features of crime in America is its disproportionate concentration in disadvantaged, racially segregated communities, which has long raised concern that segregation itself may contribute to criminal behavior. Yet little is known about whether government efforts to reduce segregation can reduce crime. We address this question by studying the most important large-scale policy to reduce segregation in American life - court-ordered school desegregation. Our research design exploits variation across large urban school districts in the timing of when they were subject to local Federal court orders to desegregate. We find that for black youth, homicide victimization declines by around 25 percent when court orders are implemented; homicide arrests decline significantly as well. We also find evidence for spillover effects on other age and race groups, consistent with data indicating a sizable amount of offending across groups and with the fact that offending by different groups is also linked through the police budget constraint. Economic models for a "market for offenses" suggest the influence of this second mechanism should attenuate over time as victims respond to a shift in the supply of offenses by reducing investments in crime prevention. Consistent with this theory, we find police spending declines several years after court desegregation orders are enacted. The only detectable life-course-persistent effects are found among birth cohorts that attended desegregated schools.

Suggested Citation

Weiner, David A. and Lutz, Byron F. and Ludwig, Jens, The Effects of School Desegregation on Crime (September 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15380, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1478798

David A. Weiner

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Byron F. Lutz

Federal Reserve Board - Research Division ( email )

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
United States

Jens Ludwig (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

3600 N Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20057
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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