Doctoral Dissertation Research: Neighborhood Crime and Property Values

The construction of new correctional facilities often faces opposition by potential neighboring communities. Two primary concerns are consistently cited as reasons for such opposition: fears of rising crime and declining property values in the neighborhood. However, few empirical studies have examined this important and timely issue. This project employs data on almost 10,000 census tracts from 91 U.S. cities to investigate the relationship between correctional facilities, crime rates, and property values.

The project is grounded in social scientific theories regarding social disorganization and routine activities. It pursues three main empirical goals. First, longitudinal analyses will examine the relationship between the presence of a correctional facility, crime levels and property values over time to gauge the degree to which these patterns have changed. Second, cross-sectional analyses of neighborhoods, disaggregated by the level of socio-economic disadvantage, will assess the degree to which the type of neighborhood influences results. Finally, analyses will evaluate whether the type of correctional facility shapes the effects on crime and property values. The methodological approach includes several types of multivariate modeling, as well as propensity score matching. In addition to U.S. Census data (1990, 2000), the study relies on the National Neighborhood Crime Study and the Time Series Database available via Geolytics, Inc.

Broader Impacts Findings from this dissertation seek to inform our understanding of how the presence of correctional facilities impacts the surrounding communities. Results from this project may be of interest to urban and community planners, as well as the law enforcement community and the general public. In addition to policy impacts, this dissertation project will produce a novel, publicly available dataset containing crime statistics, property value and correctional facility variables at the census tract level for a number of large cities.

Project Report

This research has benefited from the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant in several important ways. First, funds enabled the dissertator to attend a Causal Inference in the Social Sciences: Matching, Propensity Score and Other Strategies workshop in summer 2012 sponsored by the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research held at the University of California. The workshop strengthened the methods used in this project and allowed for stronger causal inferences to be made for the property values analyses. Second, the grant money was used to purchase normalized data from Geolytics, Inc. in the fall of 2012. These data are integral for the property values analyses. Data from the National Neighborhood Crime Study and the 2000 census were cleaned and merged for urban neighborhoods in 91 large U.S. cities. Spatial identifiers were then attached to each neighborhood in ArcGIS. OLS and spatial error regression models were completed using GeoDa. Results from the spatial crime analyses indicate that the presence of a correctional group quarter is associated with higher total crime and violent crime, net of all social disorganization covariates and controls. The percentage of the neighborhood that lives in correctional group quarters was also significantly associated with higher total crime rates. A second aspect of this research focused on the differential impact of correctional group quarter type on crime (i.e., confinement vs. community). These analyses suggest that the community correctional group population is associated with higher neighborhood total and violent crime, while the percentage of the neighborhood that lives in a confinement group quarter was negatively associated with violent crime. However, these results should be interpreted with caution as preliminary analyses indicate that there is little variation among the different types of correctional facilities in urban neighborhoods. The majority of neighborhoods in the sample do not contain a correctional group quarter; however, community correctional facilities (e.g., halfway houses) outnumber confinement facilities (e.g., state prisons) when correctional facilities are present in urban neighborhoods. Supplemental analyses will be completed to strengthen the conclusions related to the second research objective. Finally, the detrimental effect of correctional group quarters on neighborhood crime was amplified in disadvantaged neighborhoods, as both the presence and proportion of correctional group quarters populations were associated with higher total, violent, and property crime rates. Correctional group quarters located in socioeconomically advantaged neighborhoods were not statistically related to any crime outcome. The property value analyses are projected to be completed by the end of 2013. Currently, the data from the 1990 and 2000 U.S. decennial censuses and the Neighborhood Change Database are being cleaned and merged. The entire project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2013 and results will be disseminated through journal articles and conference presentations. The dataset that contains all merged data and spatial identifiers will be publically available upon request.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Saylor Breckenridge
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Suny at Albany
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