School Climate & Safety Report Roundup

Do Segregated Schools Breed Crime Partnerships?

By Sarah D. Sparks — February 16, 2016 1 min read

Segregating poor minority students in impoverished schools not only makes it difficult for them to make the academic connections to get to college—it makes it much easier for students to instead make connections to crime.

In a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Stephen Billings of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Stephen Ross of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and David Deming of the Harvard Graduate School of Education linked data from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., public schools with local police-arrest records.

Probability for Criminal Partnerships (Same School/Grade vs. Different School/Same Grade)

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The likelihood that students who live near one another will team up for crime-related activities rises sharply if they also attend the same school, according to researchers who studied data on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.

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Source: “Partners in Crime: Schools, Neighborhoods, and the Formation of Criminal Networks”

They found that students who lived within a kilometer of each other—walking distance to each others’ houses, and close enough that they would probably see each other at local stores and parks—and who also attended the same school and grade were significantly more likely to be arrested together. Students were not more likely to be arrested together if they attended school together but lived farther away, or if they were neighbors on opposite sides of an attendance boundary.

“You can be in the same classes, and maybe it’s a positive framework where you study together or do projects together,” Billings said, “or maybe you both decide to skip or do something [delinquent] after school together.”

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A version of this article appeared in the February 17, 2016 edition of Education Week as Do Segregated Schools Breed Crime Partnerships?

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