Protecting the Suburbs

Kevin Lewis

September 11, 2020

Locking up my generation: Cohort differences in prison spells over the life course
Yinzhi Shen et al.
Criminology, forthcoming


Crime rates have dropped substantially in the United States, but incarceration rates have remained high. The standard explanation for the lasting trend in incarceration is that the policy choices from the 1980s and 1990s were part of a secular increase in punitiveness that has kept rates of incarceration high. Our study highlights a heretofore overlooked perspective: that the crime–punishment wave in the 1980s and 1990s created cohort differences in incarceration over the life course that changed the level of incarceration even decades after the wave. With individual‐level longitudinal sentencing data from 1972 to 2016 in North Carolina, we show that cohort effects — the lingering impacts of having reached young adulthood at particular times in the history of crime and punishment — are at least as large (and likely much larger) than annual variation in incarceration rates attributable to period‐specific events and proclivities. The birth cohorts that reach prime age of crime during the 1980s and 1990s crime–punishment wave have elevated rates of incarceration throughout their observed life course. The key mechanism for their elevated incarceration rates decades after the crime–punishment wave is the accumulation of extended criminal history under a sentencing structure that systematically escalates punishment for those with priors.

Mobilize for Our Lives? School Shootings and Democratic Accountability in U.S. Elections
Hans Hassell, John Holbein & Matthew Baldwin
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


Gun violence is a large and growing problem in the United States. Many reformers look towards elections to spur policy change in this area. In this paper, we explore the effects of school shootings on electoral mobilization and election outcomes. We pair data from several sources that measure validated voter registration; validated voter turnout; and the electoral performance of officials at the local, state, and federal levels with regression discontinuity and panel methods. Our effects show that shootings have little to no effect on electoral outcomes in the United States. Our work demonstrates that even when tragic events occur that are squarely in the realm of elected officials’ responsibility, have high levels of issue salience, are highly-covered by the media, draw citizens’ attention, and (perhaps) shift public opinion, these seemingly favorable conditions may not be enough to elicit democratic accountability.

The Long-Run Impact of the 1968 Washington, DC Civil Disturbance
Leah Brooks et al.
Federal Reserve Working Paper, July 2020


This paper studies the urban development impacts of the civil disturbances that took place in Washington, DC following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. We collect novel archival data that allow us to compare lots destroyed during the disturbances to neighboring properties on the same block. Though these lots exhibit no ex ante differences, destruction in 1968 led to large and persistent disinvestment. Destroyed properties were more likely to remain empty for 30 years and remain 20 percent less capital dense today. This finding, which contrasts with rapid rebuilding that has occurred after urban destruction in other historic episodes, highlights the stigmatization that resulted and the challenges that city leaders faced in taking on the redevelopment effort themselves.

Fines, Fees, Forfeitures, and Disparities: A Link Between Municipal Reliance on Fines and Racial Disparities in Policing
Kelsey Shoub et al.
Policy Studies Journal, forthcoming


We investigate a possible linkage between municipal reliance on fines, fees, and forfeitures as a revenue source and policing behavior. With a dataset of four million traffic stops made by North Carolina municipalities, we demonstrate that a regular reliance on fines, fees, and forfeitures has powerful, predictable, and racially distinct impacts on black and white drivers, and that fiscal stress exacerbates these differences. A greater regular reliance on fines, fees, and forfeitures is linked to a decrease in the probability of white, but not black, drivers being searched; and increased odds of finding contraband among those white drivers who are searched, but no such change for black drivers. We validate the North Carolina tests with aggregate analyses of municipalities across four states.

Racial Disparities in Motor Vehicle Searches Cannot Be Justified by Efficiency
Benjamin Feigenberg & Conrad Miller
NBER Working Paper, August 2020


During traffic stops, police search black and Hispanic motorists more often than white motorists, yet those searches are equally or less likely to yield contraband. We ask whether equalizing search rates by motorist race would reduce contraband yield. We use unique administrative data from Texas to isolate variation in search behavior across highway patrol troopers and find that, across troopers, search rates are unrelated to the proportion of searches that yield contraband. Our results imply that, in partial equilibrium, troopers can equalize search rates across racial groups, maintain the status quo search rate, and increase contraband yield.

Using allegations to understand selection bias in organizations: Misconduct in the Chicago Police Department
Bryan Stroube
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming


Selection biases present a fundamental challenge for research on ethics and misconduct. This issue is well understood at the individual level, where lab studies are often employed to sidestep it at the potential expense of external validity. However, much archival field data on ethics and misconduct are at risk of selection bias originating from within organizations, because organizations are typically responsible for evaluating and ultimately documenting who commits misconduct. In this paper I explore the nature and potential scope of this particular form of selection bias, its potential impact on the interpretation of extant findings from the literature, and how studying allegations may help detect it in specific contexts. Using detailed data on formal allegations of police misconduct in Chicago, I highlight how status characteristics such as race and gender may bias the creation of archival data. For example, black officers received allegations at rates similar to white officers but were more likely to have them sustained, and allegations made by black complainants were less likely to be sustained than those made by white complainants — even when including extensive sets of control variables. These findings indicate that accounting for allegations may be a fruitful methodological approach to better understand the optimal use of archival behavioral field data for research on ethics and misconduct.

Police response to same-sex intimate partner violence in the marriage equality era
Lynn Addington
Criminal Justice Studies, August 2020, Pages 213-230


Growing research attention is being devoted to intimate partner violence (IPV) involving sexual minority individuals, which is providing insights about prevalence and disclosure patterns. While this work consistently finds that sexual minority IPV victims are reluctant to report to the police, little is known about actual police response to these victims. One unexplored area concerns how growing societal support and legal recognition of same-sex relationships might affect police response to IPV such as arrest. This issue is particularly timely given the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage. The present study examines police response to IPV involving same-sex couples using arrest data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Findings indicate a relationship between legal recognition of same-sex marriage and arrest in IPV cases for both male and female same-sex couples. Implications of these findings for policy and future research are discussed.

Criminal Deterrence When There Are Offsetting Risks: Traffic Cameras, Vehicular Accidents, and Public Safety
Justin Gallagher & Paul Fisher
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, August 2020, Pages 202-237


Numerous cities have enacted electronic monitoring programs at traffic intersections in an effort to reduce the high number of vehicle accidents. The rationale is that the higher expected fines for running a red light will induce drivers to stop and lead to fewer cross-road collisions. However, the cameras also incentivize drivers to accept a greater accident risk from stopping. We evaluate the termination of a monitoring program via a voter referendum using 12 years of geocoded police accident data. We find that the cameras changed the composition of accidents but no evidence of a reduction in total accidents or injuries.

Local Access to Mental Healthcare and Crime
Monica Deza, Johanna Catherine Maclean & Keisha Solomon
NBER Working Paper, July 2020


We estimate the effect of local access to office-based mental healthcare on crime. We leverage variation in the number of mental healthcare offices within a county over the period 1999 to 2014 in a two-way fixed-effects model. We find that increases in the number of mental healthcare offices modestly reduce crime. In particular, ten additional offices in a county reduces crime by 1.7 crimes per 10,000 residents. These findings suggest an unintended benefit from expanding the office-based mental healthcare workforce: reductions in crime.

Can Electronic Monitoring Reduce Reoffending?
Jenny Williams & Don Weatherburn
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


We evaluate electronic monitoring as an alternative to prison for non-violent offenses. Leveraging plausibly exogenous variation in sentencing outcomes generated by quasirandom assignment of judges, we find electronic monitoring reduces reoffending at both extensive and intensive margins. Compared with prison, electronic monitoring is estimated to reduce the probability of reoffending by 22 percentage points 5 years after sentencing and by 11 percentage points 10 years after sentencing, with the cumulative number of offenses reduced by 45 percent 10 years after sentencing. These results demonstrate that electronic monitoring can have sustained crime-reducing effects.

Are Criminals Strategic? Offender Responses to Drug Sentencing Cutoffs
Louis-Pierre Lepage
Labour Economics, forthcoming


In many US states, punishment severity for drug offenses increases discontinuously at established quantity limits. Theory predicts that these laws create bunching of offenders at these limits and dominated regions beyond, where it ex-ante appears irrational to locate. These policies provide a novel setting to test for deterrence along a different margin that typically considered in the literature and generate new evidence on the extent to which offenders respond to incentives. Using arrest reports from 28 states and leveraging variation from quantity cutoff changes through time, I find evidence of strategic bunching by offenders in response to cutoff policies.

Improving the Accuracy of Firearm Identification in a Dynamic Use of Force Scenario
Hunter Martaindale
Police Quarterly, forthcoming


Law enforcement officers are sometimes required to make split-second use of force decisions. One factor that can impact their decision-making process is the presence of a weapon. This experiment sought to improve the speed and accuracy of weapon identification in a dynamic use of force scenario through the principles of deliberate practice. This research utilized randomized control trial with random assignment to either a control or test condition. Eighty-seven participants completed the pretest, intervention, and posttest. Participants’ vision was recorded via a mobile vision-tracker. With only 20 minutes of training, the test group made 1/3 the amount of decision errors as the control group (Cohen’s d = 0.95). The test group was about 16% faster than the control group at visually finding the object in the suspect’s hand and determining if it was a gun or not (Cohen’s d = 0.91).

How weaponizing disinformation can bring down a city’s power grid
Gururaghav Raman et al.
PLoS ONE, August 2020


Social media has made it possible to manipulate the masses via disinformation and fake news at an unprecedented scale. This is particularly alarming from a security perspective, as humans have proven to be one of the weakest links when protecting critical infrastructure in general, and the power grid in particular. Here, we consider an attack in which an adversary attempts to manipulate the behavior of energy consumers by sending fake discount notifications encouraging them to shift their consumption into the peak-demand period. Using Greater London as a case study, we show that such disinformation can indeed lead to unwitting consumers synchronizing their energy-usage patterns, and result in blackouts on a city-scale if the grid is heavily loaded. We then conduct surveys to assess the propensity of people to follow-through on such notifications and forward them to their friends. This allows us to model how the disinformation may propagate through social networks, potentially amplifying the attack impact. These findings demonstrate that in an era when disinformation can be weaponized, system vulnerabilities arise not only from the hardware and software of critical infrastructure, but also from the behavior of the consumers.

The Effect of Incarceration on Mortality
Samuel Norris, Matthew Pecenco & Jeffrey Weaver
University of Chicago Working Paper, July 2020


This paper analyzes the effect of incarceration on mortality using administrative data from Ohio between 1992 and 2017. Using event study and difference-in-differences approaches, we compare mortality risk across incarcerated and non-incarcerated individuals before and after pre-scheduled releases from prison. Mortality risk halves during the period of incarceration, with large declines in murders, overdoses, and medical causes of death. However, there is no detectable effect on post-release mortality risk, meaning that incarceration increases overall longevity. We estimate that incarceration averts nearly two thousand deaths annually in the US, comparable to the 2014 Medicaid expansion.

Omega-3 supplementation in young offenders: A randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial
Adrian Raine et al.
Journal of Experimental Criminology, September 2020, Pages 389–405

Methods: In this randomized, double-blind trial, 145 young offenders were randomized into three groups: omega-3 (N = 48), placebo (N = 46), and treatment-as-usual controls (N = 51). Measures of antisocial, aggressive, and psychopathic behavior were collected at 0 months (baseline), 3 months (end of treatment), 6 months (3 months post-treatment), and 12 months (9 months post-treatment).

Results: Omega-3 supplementation resulted in both short-term and long-term declines in self-reported antisocial and aggressive behavior. Findings were stronger for a reactive-impulsive form of aggression than for proactive aggression and psychopathy. Sensitivity analyses documented long-term reductions at 6 and 12 months in the omega-3 group for officer reports.

The Effect of Housing Circumstances on Recidivism: Evidence From a Sample of People on Probation in San Francisco
Leah Jacobs & Aaron Gottlieb
Criminal Justice and Behavior, September 2020, Pages 1097-1115


The relationships between housing circumstances and recidivism are well established among people released from prison. Despite probation being far more common than prison or parole, we know little about living situations, homelessness, and residential instability among people on probation, and we know even less regarding how these housing circumstances may affect their risk of recidivism. Using a unique dataset of 2,453 people on probation and longitudinal analyses, this study finds that housing insecurity is common and is associated with an increased risk of recidivism among people on probation, above and beyond an array of other recidivism risk factors. Furthermore, we find housing effects are particularly strong for relatively low risk people and for relatively low-severity offenses (i.e., property crimes, minor crimes, and revocations). Interventions that increase housing access for people on probation may reduce recidivism, especially for those who are relatively low risk and low-level reoffending.

Exogenous Shocks, the Criminal Elite, and Increasing Gender Inequality in Chicago Organized Crime
Chris Smith
American Sociological Review, forthcoming


Criminal organizations, like legitimate organizations, adapt to shifts in markets, competition, regulations, and enforcement. Exogenous shocks can be consequential moments of power consolidation, resource hoarding, and inequality amplification in legitimate organizations, but especially in criminal organizations. This research examines how the exogenous shock of the U.S. prohibition of the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol in 1920 restructured power and inequality in Chicago organized crime. I analyze a unique relational database on organized crime from the early 1900s via a criminal network that tripled in size and centralized during Prohibition. Before Prohibition, Chicago organized crime was small, decentralized, and somewhat inclusive of women at the margins. However, during Prohibition, the organized crime network grew, consolidated the organizational elites, and left out the most vulnerable participants from the most profitable opportunities. This historical case illuminates how profits and organizational restructuring outside of (or in response to) regulatory environments can displace people at the margins.

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