2017 Urban Research Awards: Crime and Public Housing

Crime and Public Housing: A General Equilibrium Analysis

Economics Ph.D. candidate Jesse Bruhn seeks to quantify the impact of ambitious public housing redevelopment projects—specifically the Plan for Transformation project in Chicago—on the distribution of criminal activity within city limits. The Plan for Transformation project was a part of the federal government’s shift in support for housing assistance in the 1970s from public housing to more market-oriented approaches such as section 8 vouchers and mixed-income communities.

Bruhn will examine existing literature through a new lens, using census-block time series variation in the sequence of public housing demolitions as well as within census-block cross-demolition variation in distance to treatment. This new analysis will create a more accurate picture of the costs and benefits of public housing revitalization. His results will also answer the following questions:

  • Did the demolition of 25,000 units of high rise public housing in 1970’s Chicago increase or decrease city-wide ambient crime levels?
  • To what extent did the concurrent relocation of public housing residents shift crime across neighborhood boundaries?
  • How has the displacement of crime differentially impacted neighborhoods of different racial and socioeconomic composition?