American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?
36 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012 Last revised: 8 Mar 2012
Date Written: December 14, 2011
Potential neighbors often express worries that Housing Choice Voucher holders heighten crime. Yet no research systematically examines the link between the presence of voucher holders in a neighborhood and crime. Our paper aims to do just this, using longitudinal, neighborhood-level crime and voucher utilization data in 10 large U.S. cities. We test whether the presence of additional voucher holders leads to elevated rates of crime, controlling for neighborhood fixed effects, time-varying neighborhood characteristics, and trends in the broader sub-city area in which the neighborhood is located. In brief, crime tends to be higher in census tracts with more voucher households, but that positive relationship becomes insignificant after we control for unobserved differences across census tracts and falls further when we control for trends in the broader area. We find far more evidence for the reverse causal story; voucher use in a neighborhood increases in tracts with rising crime, suggesting that voucher holders tend to move into neighborhoods where crime rates are increasing.
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