Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine

65 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2005  

Roland G. Fryer Jr.

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; University of Chicago

Paul S. Heaton

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation

Kevin M. Murphy

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 2005

Abstract

A wide range of social indicators turned sharply negative for Blacks in the late 1980s and began to rebound roughly a decade later. We explore whether the rise and fall of crack cocaine can explain these patterns. Absent a direct measure of crack cocaine%u2019s prevalence, we construct an index based on a range of indirect proxies (cocaine arrests, cocaine-related emergency room visits, cocaine-induced drug deaths, crack mentions in newspapers, and DEA drug busts). The crack index we construct reproduces many of the spatial and temporal patterns described in ethnographic and popular accounts of the crack epidemic. We find that our measure of crack can explain much of the rise in Black youth homicides, as well as more moderate increases in a wide range of adverse birth outcomes for Blacks in the 1980s. Although our crack index remains high through the 1990s, the deleterious social impact of crack fades. One interpretation of this result is that changes over time in behavior, crack markets, and the crack using population mitigated the damaging impacts of crack. Our analysis suggests that the greatest social costs of crack have been associated with the prohibition-related violence, rather than drug use per se.

Suggested Citation

Fryer, Roland G. and Heaton, Paul S. and Levitt, Steven D. and Murphy, Kevin M., Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine (May 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11318. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=720405

Roland G. Fryer Jr. (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

American Bar Foundation

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University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Paul S. Heaton

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/pheaton/

Steven D. Levitt

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

American Bar Foundation

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

University of Chicago ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-1862 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

Kevin M. Murphy

University of Chicago ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-7280 (Phone)
773-702-2699 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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