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Friday, March 12, 2010

Brinig and Garnett on Catholic Schools and Broken Windows

Margaret F. Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett (Notre Dame) have posted Catholic Schools and Broken Windows on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

This paper represents the second stage of an effort to test previously unstudied implications of a dramatic shift in the American educational landscape, namely, the rapid disappearance of Catholic schools from urban neighborhoods. In a previous study, we used data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to measure how Catholic school closures affected perceived levels of disorder and social cohesion in Chicago neighborhoods. In this paper, we use data provided by the Chicago Police Department to test two related hypotheses about the effects of Catholic school closures on violent crime rates. The first is that Catholic school closures will lead, in relatively short order, to increased crime in a neighborhood. The second is that that crime will increase most dramatically in those police beats where previous school closures led to elevated levels of physical and social disorder and suppressed levels of social cohesion in 1995. We find that Catholic school closures are linked to increase in violent crimes, and that the most significant increases occur in police beats with the highest levels of school-closure-related disorder and -suppressed social cohesion in 1995.

Our study contributes in unique ways to two critical legal-policy debates about policing and education policy. First, and most significantly, our data provides a novel means of testing the broken windows hypothesis. We know, from our previous investigation, where school closures have elevated disorder and suppressed social cohesion, and, using a 3SLS analysis to solve simultaneous equations, we are able to link these findings with subsequent elevated levels of serious crimes. These findings suggest a connection between disorder and serious crime, even if not the direct one posited by Wilson and Kelling. Second, the study contributes new and important evidence to debates about school choice, especially in light of the very real possibility that urban Catholic schools will continue to disappear unless new sources of tuition assistance become available to the students that they serve.

Ben Barros

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