The Academic Effects of Chronic Exposure to Neighborhood Violence

Agustina Laurito, Johanna Lacoe, Amy Schwartz, Patrick Sharkey, and Ingrid Gould Ellen
In Urban Studies.

This paper estimates the causal effect of repeated exposure to violent crime on test scores in New York City. We use two empirical strategies; value-added models linking student performance on standardised exams to violent crimes on students’ residential block, and a regression discontinuity approach that identifies the acute effect of additional crime exposure within a one-week window. Exposure to violent crime reduces academic performance. Value-added models suggest the average effect is very small (approximately −0.01 standard deviations) but grows with repeated exposure. Regression discontinuity (RD) models also find a larger effect among children previously exposed. The marginal acute effect is as large as −0.04 standard deviations for students with two or more prior exposures. Among these, it is almost one tenth of a standard deviation for Black students. We provide credible causal evidence that repeated exposure to neighbourhood violence harms test scores, and this negative effect increases with exposure.

Wagner Faculty