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Crime, Education, and Racial Disparities

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Marriott Philadelphia Downtown, Meeting Room 309
Hosted By: National Economic Association
  • Chair: Jevay Grooms, University of Washington

Intergenerational Effects of Education on Delinquency

Aaron Chaflin
University of Pennsylvania
Monica Deza
University of Texas-Dallas


Children of parents with low education are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior. One explanation for this is that parents that are more likely to obtain education are also inherently more likely to raise children in ways that are less conducive to crime. Alternatively, additional parental education may change parents’ behavior in ways that ultimately reduces their children’s propensity to commit crime. Using data from the NLSY79 and variation induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws in the United States, we find that increasing compulsory schooling reduces delinquent behavior among their children. In particular, an additional year of combined parental education decreases the propensity to damage property by 6 percentage points, assault by 4 percentage points and shoplifting by 4.5 percentage points. Higher parental education also results in smaller family size, higher expected number of years of education, less TV time and higher measures of self control, thus revealing several mechanisms through which these intergenerational effects are transferred. This study highlights the effect that compulsory schooling laws can have on improving intergenerational outcomes in contexts that have not been previously documented. Previous cost-benefit analysis of compulsory schooling laws appreciably underestimate their full benefits.

Local Violence, Academic Performance, and School Accountability

Marcus Casey
University of Illinois-Chicago
Jeffrey Schiman
Georgia Southern University
Maciej Wachala
University of Illinois-Chicago


Inspired by the “No Child Left Behind” legislation, school accountability systems seek to promote school quality improvements and close achievement gaps through increased scrutiny of schools and teachers. Standardized test scores and value-added measures largely determine “grades” assigned to institutions and teachers. Poor evaluations may have severe implications: teachers assigned bad grades may face pay decreases, discipline, and possibly, firing; in some cases, entire schools may be closed or replaced by a charter. Importantly, evaluation depends on within-school factors. However, a growing literature demonstrates that random shocks external to the classroom or school environment may affect measured test performance. As such evaluation systems become increasingly attractive to districts, a more comprehensive understanding is needed of how external stimuli may distort student test performance and, consequently, accountability ratings.

We study a salient shock: violent crime. Specifically, we match crime incidents to Chicago Public School (CPS) data to study how potential student exposure to local violent crime during testing periods may affect school-level performance and accountability scores. Chicago is ideal to study this issue with its large school system structured primarily around neighborhood schools. Moreover, its violent crime rate is relatively high, but unevenly distributed across neighborhoods. Hence, students attending demographically similar schools often face different potential violent crime exposure.

Our empirical strategy exploits variation in the timing and location of violent crime to study whether crimes occurring within testing periods near neighborhood schools are negatively related to student test scores and the probability of satisfying accountability standards. Our results suggest exposure to an additional violent event is associated with decreased test performance. The associations are quite local, dying out beyond 0.3 miles from the school. These performance declines are consequential as the schools impacted by within-testing period violent crime are also less likely to meet accountability standards. Overall, our results suggest that violent crime exposure during testing periods may contribute to lower evaluations of schools.

Don’t Shoot! The Impact of Historical African American Protest on Police Killings of Civilians

Jamein Cunningham
Portland State University
Rob Gillezeau
University of Victoria


For decades, African Americans have taken to the streets in both peaceful protest and, at times, violent uprisings to express outrage over police killings of African American citizens. However, there exists little empirical evidence as to whether these protests have any impact on the behavior of local police forces. We seek to close this gap by considering the impact of the racial uprisings in the 1960s and 1970s on deaths by legal intervention. A robust event study approach reveals that 60s and 70s era racial uprisings result in increased civilian deaths at the hands of police in subsequent years. In the first three years after a protest in a county, police killings of white Americans increase by 0.66 and killings of non-whites increase by 1.2. In subsequent years, the impact on killings of white Americans disappears while the impact on killings of non-whites persist. These results paint a depressing picture in which local police forces respond to racial unrest through increased killings of largely non-white civilians.

Banning the Box: Felony Convictions, Employment Outcomes, and Statistical Discrimination

Robynn Cox
University of Southern California
Sarah Jacobson
Williams College


Recent work by Doleac and Hansen (2016) find that Ban-the-Box (BTB) legislation causes a decline in employment of young, low-skilled black and Hispanic men. This study investigates the mechanisms through which well-intentioned policies like BTB, and similar legislation, might hurt the individuals they are meant to help within criminal justice and labor market settings. In particular, this study explores how race and gender influence both criminal justice and labor market outcomes through perceptions of criminality. We contribute to the literature by using an experimental approach to distinguish between statistical and taste-based discrimination, and to determine if trust is a factor influencing racial bias in these settings. To do so, we implement a relatively complex economic lab experiment that incorporates both criminal and hiring decisions through a two-part experiment where participants play an inspection game in the first phase and a gift exchange game in the second phase. In this paper, we focus on the inspection game results in order to understand how race influences racial bias in policing and punishment through the decision to inspect an individual that may or may not have participated in “criminal” activity. Future work will explore how participants’ “criminal” activity, race, and gender interact to influence “hiring” decisions within the gift exchange game played in the second phase of the experiment.
Alberto Ortega
Whitman College
Luisa Blanco
Pepperdine University
Bradley L. Hardy
American University
Patrick Mason
Florida State University
JEL Classifications
  • I2 - Education and Research Institutions
  • K4 - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior