Crime is in the Air: The Contemporaneous Relationship between Air Pollution and Crime

41 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018

See all articles by Malvina Bondy

Malvina Bondy

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

Sefi Roth

University of London - Royal Holloway College

Lutz Sager

Grantham Research Institute, LSE; London School of Economics

Abstract

Many empirical studies have examined various determinants of crime. However, the link between crime and air pollution has been surprisingly overlooked despite several potential pathways. In this paper, we study whether exposure to ambient air pollution affects crime by using daily administrative data for the years 2004-05 in London. For identification, we mainly rely on the panel structure of the data to estimate models with ward fixed effects. We complement our main analysis with an instrumental variable approach where we use wind direction as an exogenous shock to local air pollution concentrations.We find that elevated levels of air pollution have a positive and statistically significant impact on overall crime and that the effect is stronger for types of crime which tend to be less severe. We formally explore the underlying mechanism for our finding and conclude that the effect of air pollution on crime is likely mediated by higher discounting of future punishment. Importantly, we also find that these effects are present at levels which are well below current regulatory standards and that the effect of air pollution on crime appears to be unevenly distributed across the income distribution. Overall, our results suggest that reducing air pollution in urban areas may be a cost effective measure to reduce crime.

Keywords: air pollution, crime, economic incentives

JEL Classification: H23, K42, Q53

Suggested Citation

Bondy, Malvina and Roth, Sefi and Sager, Lutz, Crime is in the Air: The Contemporaneous Relationship between Air Pollution and Crime. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11492. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3170281

Malvina Bondy (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics

United Kingdom

Sefi Roth

University of London - Royal Holloway College ( email )

Senate House
Malet Street
London, TW20 0EX
United Kingdom

Lutz Sager

Grantham Research Institute, LSE ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
Great Britain

London School of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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