Air Pollution and Criminal Activity: Evidence from Chicago Microdata

41 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2015 Last revised: 16 Dec 2015

See all articles by Evan Herrnstadt

Evan Herrnstadt

Compass Lexecon

Erich Muehlegger

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 2015

Abstract

A large and growing literature documents the adverse impacts of pollution on health, productivity, educational attainment and socioeconomic outcomes. This paper provides the first quasi-experimental evidence that air pollution causally affects criminal activity. We exploit detailed location data on over two million serious crimes reported to the Chicago police department over a twelve-year period. We identify the causal effect of pollution on criminal activity by comparing crime on opposite sides of major interstates on days when the wind blows orthogonally the direction of the interstate and find that violent crime is 2.2 percent higher on the downwind side. Consistent with evidence from psychology on the relationship between pollution and aggression, the effect is unique to violent crimes – we find no effect of pollution on the commission of property crime.

Suggested Citation

Herrnstadt, Evan and Muehlegger, Erich, Air Pollution and Criminal Activity: Evidence from Chicago Microdata (December 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21787. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2703192

Evan Herrnstadt (Contact Author)

Compass Lexecon ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.evanherrnstadt.com

Erich Muehlegger

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

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