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73 U. Chi. L. Rev. 271 (2006)
Broken Windows: New Evidence from New York City and a Five-City Social Experiment

handle is hein.journals/uclr73 and id is 281 raw text is: ARTICLE

Broken Windows: New Evidence from New York City
and a Five-City Social Experiment
Bernard E. Harcourtt & Jens Ludwigtt
In 1982, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling suggested in an influential article in the Atlan-
tic Monthly that targeting minor disorder could help reduce more serious crime. More than twenty
years later, the three most populous cities in the United States-New York, Chicago, and, most
recently, Los Angeles-have all adopted at least some aspect of Wilson and Kelling's theory, pri-
marily through more aggressive enforcement of minor misdemeanor laws. Remarkably little,
though, is currently known about the effect of broken windows policing on crime.
According to a recent National Research Council report, existing research does not provide
strong support for the broken windows hypothesis-with the possible exception of a 2001 study of
crime trends in New York City by George Kelling and William Sousa.
In this Article, we reexamine the 2001 Kelling and Sousa study and independently analyze
the crime data from New York City for the 1989-1998 period. In addition, we present results from
an important social experiment known as Moving to Opportunity (MTO) underway in five cities,
including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as Baltimore and Boston, that provides a
unique opportunity to overcome some of the problems with previous empirical tests of the broken
windows hypothesis. Under this program, approximately 4,600 low-income families living in high-
crime public housing communities characterized by high rates of social disorder were randomly
assigned housing vouchers to move to less disadvantaged and disorderly communities.
Taken together, the evidence from New York City and from the five-city social experiment
provides no support for a simple first-order disorder-crime relationship as hypothesized by Wilson
and Kelling, nor for the proposition that broken windows policing is the optimal use of scarce law
enforcement resources.
t   Professor of Law,The University of Chicago Law School.
tt Associate Professor of Public Policy, Georgetown University.
Special thanks to Jeffrey Fagan, Hal Holzman, Tracey Meares, Steven Messner, Robert Mor-
rissey, Robert Sampson, Mark Shroder and Todd Richardson for comments on earlier drafts; to
Ella Delaney and Tim Ross at the Vera Institute for their assistance in assembling the data for
New York City; to Stephen Schacht at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) for
comments and guidance regarding the data collection and analysis; as well as to Sarah Rose and
Zac Callen for excellent research assistance. The MTO survey and administrative data results
summarized here and first published in Kling, Ludwig, and Katz (2005) and Ludwig and Kling
(2005) were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to the National Bureau
of Economic Research (NBER) (Grant Nos 9876337 and 0091854) and the National Consortium
on Violence Research (Grant No 9513040), as well as by the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the
National Institute of Mental Health (Grant Nos R01-HD40404 and R01-HD40444), the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the
MacArthur Foundation, the W.T. Grant Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.


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