Is Crime Contagious?

42 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2006

See all articles by Jens Ludwig

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jeffrey R. Kling

Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2006

Abstract

Understanding whether criminal behavior is "contagious" is important for law enforcement and for policies that affect how people are sorted across social settings. We test the hypothesis that criminal behavior is contagious by using data from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) randomized housing-mobility experiment to examine the extent to which lower local area crime rates decrease arrest rates among individuals. Our analysis exploits the fact that the effect of treatment group assignment yields different types of neighborhood changes across the five MTO demonstration sites. We use treatment-site interactions to instrument for measures of neighborhood crime rates, poverty and racial segregation in our analysis of individual arrest outcomes. We are unable to detect evidence in support of the contagion hypothesis. Neighborhood racial segregation appears to be the most important explanation for across-neighborhood variation in arrests for violent crimes in our sample, perhaps because drug market activity is more common in high-minority neighborhoods.

Keywords: endogenous effects, social multiplier, arrests, social experiment

JEL Classification: H43, I18, J23

Suggested Citation

Ludwig, Jens and Kling, Jeffrey, Is Crime Contagious? (July 2006). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2213, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=921050

Jens Ludwig (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Jeffrey Kling

Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ( email )

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Washington, DC 20515-6925
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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