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Spreading the wealth: The effect of the distribution of income and race/ethnicity across households and neighborhoods on city crime trajectories

Abstract

This study tests the effect of the composition and distribution of economic resources and race/ethnicity in cities, as well as how they are geographically distributed within these cities, on crime rates over a 30-year period.  Using data on 352 cities from 1970 to 2000 in metropolitan areas that experienced a large growth in population after World War II, this study theorizes that the effect of racial/ethnic or economic segregation on crime is stronger in cities in which race/ethnicity or income are more salient (due to greater heterogeneity or inequality).  We test and find that higher levels of segregation in cities with high levels of racial/ethnic heterogeneity leads to particularly high overall levels of the types of crime studied here (aggravated assaults, robberies, burglaries, and motor vehicle thefts).  Similarly, higher levels of economic segregation lead to much higher levels of crime in cities with higher levels of inequality.

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