Inequality and crime revisited: effects of local inequality and economic segregation on crime

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Economic inequality has long been considered an important determinant of crime. Existing evidence, however, is mostly based on inadequately aggregated data sets, making its interpretation less than straightforward. Using tract- and county-level U.S. Census panel data, I decompose county-level income inequality into its within- and across-tract components and examine the extent to which county-level crime rates are influenced by local inequality and economic segregation. I find that the previously reported positive correlation between violent crime and economic inequality is largely driven by economic segregation across neighborhoods instead of within-neighborhood inequality. Moreover, there is little evidence of a significant empirical link between overall inequality and crime when county- and time-fixed effects are controlled for. On the other hand, a particular form of economic inequality, namely, poverty concentration, remains an important predictor of county-level crime rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-626
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Population Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016 Apr 1


  • Crime
  • Inequality
  • Inequality decomposition
  • Poverty concentration


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