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Better Schools, Less Crime?

NCJ Number
Quarterly Journal of Economics Volume: 126 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2011 Pages: 2063-2115
David J. Deming
Date Published
November 2011
53 pages
This study estimated the impact on adult crime of attending a first-choice middle or high school, using data from public-school-choice lotteries in Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district (CMS).

Seven years after random assignment, lottery winners had been arrested for fewer serious crimes and had spent fewer days incarcerated. The gain in school quality as measured by peer and teacher inputs was equivalent to moving from one of the lowest-ranked schools to one at the district average. The reduction in crime comes largely from years after enrollment in the preferred school is complete. The impacts are concentrated among high-risk youth, who commit about 50 percent less crime across several different outcome measures and scaling crime by severity. The study found suggestive evidence that school quality explains more of the impact in high school; whereas, peer effects are more important in middle school. (publisher abstract modified)