Catholic Schools and Broken Windows
21 Pages Posted: 9 May 2012
Date Written: June 2012
Our previous work has suggested that the closure of Catholic elementary schools generates disorder and suppresses social cohesion in urban neighborhoods—findings that support the conclusion that Catholic elementary schools create neighborhood social capital. We extend our inquiry here by asking if Catholic school closures might also affect crime rates. Using factors independent from neighborhood indicators, specifically school and parish leadership characteristics, we created an exogenous factor that predicted which Catholic schools might close in urban Chicago, and used that factor, with sociodemographic variables, to predict police‐beat‐level crime rates. We find that Catholic school closures slow the rate of decline of crime in a police beat compared to beats with no Catholic school closure. We also find that higher perceived disorder predicted higher initial levels of crime. Our findings provide insight into which policing policies are effective and the benefits of involving religious institutions in crime‐prevention efforts. They also lend support to “school‐choice” mechanisms, such as vouchers or tax credits, that would provide financial resources to students attending urban Catholic schools.
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