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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Researchers Investigate Effect of Closing Underperforming Schools on Crime Rates

Dr. Benjamin Ukert, at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, and others published a study in Regional Science and Urban Economics that analyzed crime data in different census blocks in Philadelphia following the closing of 29 academically underperforming schools between 2011 and 2013. The research was recently named one of the top five best education research studies of 2019 by the Washington, DC based Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

“We found that the closed schools prior to closing had lower enrollment, a larger proportion of students receiving free or reduced-priced lunch, lower academic performance, and higher arrest rates, truancy rates and suspensions compared to other schools. Crime rates in census blocks containing schools were higher than those without, and those with underperforming schools had the highest crime rates,” Dr. Ukert said.

“Blocks containing closed schools saw their average crime rate decrease by nearly 15 percent and almost half of that decrease was due to a reduction in violent crime,” he added.

The research findings show that underperforming schools are linked to increased crime rates and that closing such schools disrupts the interaction of potential victims and criminals that appears to be a key factor in criminality. These results also indicate that concerns that closing schools would lead to increased crime due to the presence of vacant buildings and reduced police presence did not materialize.

The net reduction in crime found in this study shows that policy efforts aimed at moving students away from chronically underperforming schools can decrease crime rates and may improve educational opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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