Catholic Schools, Charter Schools, and Urban Neighborhoods

28 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 15 May 2012

Date Written: July 12, 2011


This paper addresses implications for urban neighborhoods of two dramatic shifts in the American educational landscape: (1) the rapid disappearance of Catholic schools from urban neighborhoods, and (2) the rise of charter schools. In previous studies, we linked Catholic school closures to increased disorder and crime, and decreased social cohesion, in Chicago neighborhoods. This paper turns to two questions unanswered in our previous investigations. First, because we focused exclusively on school closures in our previous studies, we were uncertain whether our results reflected the work that open Catholic schools do as neighborhood institutions or whether we were finding a “loss effect.” Second, since we have thus far focused on one type of educational institution, we could not say whether we were finding “school effects” generally, or “Catholic school effects” in particular. In this paper, we begin to answer both questions by comparing the effects of open Catholic and charter schools on neighborhood crime rates. Relying on police-beat-level data, we find that that police beats with open Catholic schools have lower rates of serious crime than those without one. Usually, a charter appears to have no statistically significant effect on crime rates. Our findings are important for a number of related reasons discussed in the paper.

Keywords: School choice, charter schools, education, Catholic schools, collective efficacy, social capital, crime

Suggested Citation

Garnett, Nicole Stelle and Friedlander Brinig, Margaret, Catholic Schools, Charter Schools, and Urban Neighborhoods (July 12, 2011). University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 79, Issue 1, Winter 2011, Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 11-24, Available at SSRN:

Nicole Stelle Garnett (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States
574-631-3091 (Phone)


Margaret Friedlander Brinig

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
3157 Eck Hall of Law
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States
574-631-2303 (Phone)
574-631=8078 (Fax)

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