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79 U. Chi. L. Rev. 31 (2012)


This paper addresses implications for urban neighborhoods of two dramatic shifts in the American educational landscape: (1) the rapid disappearance of Catholic schools from urban neighborhoods, and (2) the rise of charter schools. In previous studies, we linked Catholic school closures to increased disorder and crime, and decreased social cohesion, in Chicago neighborhoods. This paper turns to two questions unanswered in our previous investigations. First, because we focused exclusively on school closures in our previous studies, we were uncertain whether our results reflected the work that open Catholic schools do as neighborhood institutions or whether we were finding a “loss effect.” Second, since we have thus far focused on one type of educational institution, we could not say whether we were finding “school effects” generally, or “Catholic school effects” in particular. In this paper, we begin to answer both questions by comparing the effects of open Catholic and charter schools on neighborhood crime rates. Relying on police-beat-level data, we find that that police beats with open Catholic schools have lower rates of serious crime than those without one. Usually, a charter appears to have no statistically significant effect on crime rates. Our findings are important for a number of related reasons discussed in the paper.


Reprinted with permission of University of Chicago Law Review.

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