Partners in Crime: Schools, Neighborhoods and the Formation of Criminal Networks
Why do crime rates differ greatly across neighborhoods and schools? Comparing youth who were assigned to opposite sides of newly drawn school boundaries, we show that concentrating disadvantaged youth together in the same schools and neighborhoods increases total crime. We then show that these youth are more likely to be arrested for committing crimes together – to be “partners in crime”. Our results suggest that direct peer interaction is a key mechanism for social multipliers in criminal behavior. As a result, policies that increase residential and school segregation will – all else equal – increase crime through the formation of denser criminal networks.
We thank Phil Cook, Jon Guryan, Mark Hoekstra, Edward Kung, Jason Lindo, Justin McCrary for helpful comments/discussions as well as seminar participants at the Richmond Federal Reserve Regional Workshop 2015, University of Houston, University of Rochester, Wake Forest University, 2015 Southern Economic Association, 2015 Urban Economics Association Meetings, and the 2015 NBER SI Economics of Crime and Labor Studies Groups. We would also like to thank Brian Cunningham, Mike Humphrey and Monica Nguyen of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; Julia Rush of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Department; Andy Baxter and Susan Freije from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Stephen L. Ross
Ross gratefully acknowledges funding from the National Institute for Child Health and Development, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation. Ross has also worked recently as a consultant for the Urban Institute and for K&L Gates LLP.