Panel Paper: Effect of Urban School Closures on Crime

Friday, July 20, 2018
Building 3, Room 209 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ashlin Oglesby-Neal, Urban Institute

Several large urban districts across the United States have closed swaths of schools to consolidate resources, fully utilize the capacity of the remaining schools, and meet budget constraints. Schools are often pillars of their communities, and their closure affects not only the children attending them, but the entire neighborhood. One neighborhood outcome with limited research is the effect on crime. This study estimates the effect of school closures on crime in two large cities, Philadelphia and Chicago. In 2012-13, the School District of Philadelphia and Chicago Public Schools closed 30 and 47 schools, respectively. Using a difference-in-difference design, this study estimates the effect of the school closures on reported crime around the schools, as compared to the schools that stayed open. Crime measures come from incidents reported by the Philadelphia and Chicago Police Departments.

Preliminary findings on Philadelphia show that crime, especially non-violent and less serious crime, declined significantly around closed schools at both the block group and census tract levels in the years immediately after closure. Analyses are underway on Chicago, and this study will examine potential differences between the cities. The absence of students at the closed schools may lead to the decline in crime in the surrounding area. This preliminary finding suggests that the relationship between schools and crime should be studied further, especially as children may be more likely to commit crimes or be victims when near school.