Better Schools, Less Crime? David Deming

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1 Better Schools, Less Crime? David Deming Simone Schotte Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul - UFRGS Programa de Pós-Graduação em Economia - PPGE Course: ECOP 85 Crecimento Economico Professor: Sabino da Silva Porto Junior Period: III Trimestre de 2012 Deming, David (2011). Better schools, less crime?. The Quartely Journal of Economics, 126,

2 Main Question Can improvement in the quality of public schools be an effective crime prevention strategy? 2

3 Outline I. Theoretical Background and Data Description II. III. IV. Methodology Basic Results Results Considering Crime Severity and Social Welfare Costs V. Summary and Policy Implications 3

4 Theoretical Background and Data Description

5 The Link Between Education and Crime Urban schools in high-poverty neighborhoods have high rates of violence and school dropout and struggle to retain effective teachers (Lankford et al. 2002; Murnane 2008; Cook et al. 2010) Low-skilled youth engage in crime early because of low anticipated returns to schooling (Lochner 2004) Extensive margin: Effect of additional years of schooling on criminal activity Intensive margin: Effect of better school quality on criminal activity 5

6 The Link Between Education and Crime Human Capital Theory: Offering youth admission to a better school would raise the return to investment in schooling, keeping them enrolled longer and increasing their opportunity cost of crime as adults (Lochner 2004) Model of Peer Influence: Exposure to crime-prone youth exerts a long-lasting influence on adult crime. 6

7 Data Description Long ( , 7 years) and detailed panel dataset Data from public school choice lotteries in Charlotte- Mecklenburg school district (CMS) In 2002, CMS implemented a district-wide open enrollment school choice plan Slots at oversubscribed schools were allocated by random lottery Estimate the causal effect of winning the lottery to attend a first-choice school on criminal activity Arrest and incarceration records from Mecklenburg County and the North Carolina Department of Corrections (NCDOC) 7

8 Charlotte-Mecklenburg 8

9 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools 9

10 Data Description Long ( , 7 years) and detailed panel dataset Data from public school choice lotteries in Charlotte- Mecklenburg school district (CMS) In 2002, CMS implemented a district-wide open enrollment school choice plan Slots at oversubscribed schools were allocated by random lottery Arrest and incarceration records from Mecklenburg County and the North Carolina Department of Corrections (NCDOC) Estimate the causal effect of winning the lottery to attend a first-choice school on criminal activity 10

11 Randomization Method From 1971 until 2001, CMS forcibly desegregated 2002 first time that parents could submit up to three choices (not including their neighborhood school) If demand > supply, admission allocated by random lotteries according to the following priority groups: 1. Students that attended the school in the previous year and their siblings. 2. Free or reduced-price lunch eligible students 3. Students applying to a school within own choice zone. 11

12 Summary Statistics 12

13 Summary Statistics 13

14 Methodology

15 Research Design Use random school assignment to examine the longer term impact of school choice on crime Do not focus on effect on test scores Long term benefits possible without raising test scores Test score gains do not guarantee that impacts persist over time Looking only at test score gains may miss important benefits of interventions, particularly for disadvantaged youth 15

16 Research Design Improve earlier findings obtained by Cullen et al. (2006) Based on self reported arrests Youth significantly underreport criminal activity Probability of underreporting might be positively correlated with treatment Survey administered just 9 months after lottery participants enrolled in high school Detailed measures of criminal activity using administrative data Estimate persistence of effects 7 years after random assignment 16

17 Empirical Strategy 17

18 Empirical Strategy 18

19 Heterogeneous Treatment Effect 19

20 Basic Results

21 Impact on peers criminality Test impact of winning the lottery on school characteristics and various measures of school quality including peers average predicted criminality Lottery winners in the top risk quintile experience modest decreases in the predicted criminality of peers. Results are estimated more precisely for middle school sample. E.g. middle school lottery winners in the top risk quintile attend schools where 15.8% of students are predicted to have an arrest record, compared with 17.9% for lottery losers. 21

22 Impact on peers criminality =

23 Impact on school quality Overall, lottery winners attend schools that are better on every dimension. 23

24 Results Considering Crime Severity and Social Welfare Costs

25 Measuring Crime Severity 1. Using victimization/social cost of crimes Extremely high for fatal crimes (murder) To avoid estimates being driven by a few murders, also report results with the cost of murder trimmed to twice the cost of rape 2. Weigh crimes by the expected punishment resulting from successful conviction Take into account prior record and other circumstances Better able to capture criminal intent 25

26 High School Sample ,000 6,389 26

27 Middle School Sample 12, ,

28 Impact on Crime % reduction in crime severity 28

29 Summary and Policy Implications

30 Summary For both middle and high school students, consistent evidence that winning the lottery reduces adult crime. Effect is concentrated among African American males and youth who are at highest risk for criminal involvement. High-risk youth who win lottery commit ca. 50% less crime. Positive net effect from distributing high-risk youth more evenly across schools. School quality explains more of the impact in high school, whereas peer effects are more important in middle school. BUT: No detectable impact on test scores 30

31 Summary Seven years after random assignment, lottery winners had been arrested for fewer serious crimes and had spent fewer days incarcerated. Nearly all of the reduction in crime occurs after enrollment in the preferred school is complete. Differences between lottery winners and losers persist 4 7 years after random assignment in both samples. Priority boost to applicants eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches lowered crime by 12%, relative to a lottery without priority groups. 31

32 Main Result In sum, a treatment of between 1 and 4 years of enrollment in a higher quality public school led to large and persistent reductions in young adult criminal activity. 32

33 Policy Implications Schools may be a particularly important setting for the prevention of future crime. Possibly substantial societal welfare gains from targeting resources to high risk youth. Random assignment of slots to oversubscribed schools is an ideal research design. BUT: May be suboptimal from a welfare perspective Allocating slots based on ex-ante crime risk rather than at random, would reduce the social cost of crime by an additional 27%. BUT: Allocation method is controversial 33

34 References

35 References Cook, P.J., Gottfredson, D.C. & Na, C. (2010). School Crime Control and Prevention. Crime and Justice, 39, Cullen, J.B.; Jacob, B.A. & Levitt, S.D.(2006). The Effect of School Choice on Participants: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries Econometrica, 74, Deming, D. (2011). Better Schools, Less Crime?. The Quartely Journal of Economics, 126, Lankford, H.; Loeb, S. & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher Sorting and the Plight of Urban Schools: A Descriptive Analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24, Lochner, L. (2004). Education, Work, and Crime: A Human Capital Approach. International Economic Review, 45, Murnane, R.J. (2008). Educating Urban Children. NBER Working Paper w

36 Better Schools, Less Crime? David Deming Simone Schotte Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul - UFRGS Programa de Pós-Graduação em Economia - PPGE Course: ECOP 85 Crecimento Economico Professor: Sabino da Silva Porto Junior Period: III Trimestre de 2012 Deming, David (2011). Better schools, less crime?. The Quartely Journal of Economics, 126,

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