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Violent Crime, Mobility Decisions, and Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Transition

John R. Hipp
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2011.58.3.410 410-432 First published online: 1 August 2011


Numerous studies have observed a positive cross-sectional relationship between the size of racial/ethnic minority groups and crime and posited that this relationship is entirely due to a causal effect of minorities on crime rates. We posit that at least some of this relationship might be due to the opposite effect: neighborhood crime increases the number of racial/ethnic minorities. This study employs a sample that allows nesting housing units within census tracts in a number of cities to test the effect of violent crime rates on residential mobility. We find that racial/ethnic transformation occurs due to two effects: first, white households are more likely to exit neighborhoods with higher rates of violent crime than are African American households. Second, whites are significantly less likely to move into a housing unit in a tract with more violent crime, particularly if this violent crime rate is increasing. On the other hand, African American and Latino households are more likely to enter neighborhoods with higher levels of violent crime. And Latinos are particularly likely to enter neighborhoods experiencing an increasing level of violent crime over the previous four years.

  • violent crime
  • residential mobility
  • race/ethnicity
  • racial transition
  • neighborhood change

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