The Chicago Public School Strike and a “Natural Experiment” About Crime

September 13th, 2012

Today the Onion had a sharp headline: “Chicago Public Schools Celebrate Third Straight Day Without Any Student Violence.” Once again, The Onion hits very close to reality.

A few days ago the Chicago Police Department stated that they are prepared for a potential influx in crime if over 300,000 students are now on the streets, or not in their normal environs in schools.

“We do have concerns and we’re working with CPS to ensure that rival gang members are not put into the same places,” McCarthy said.

“The fact is, we just came out of the summer where those kids were not in school for the most part anyway,” he said. “So it’s really just going to extend exactly what we’re doing.”

He says he’s working with the Chicago Public Schools to make sure rival gang members aren’t placed in the same school.

McCarthy says police resources will be concentrated well into the early morning hours.

“If the kids aren’t in school, the likelihood is they’re going to be awake later and perhaps out on the street,” he said.

The strike, if it goes on for a while, may create a very interesting natural experiment about how this influx of out-of-school students affects crime rates.

Two years ago, Freakonomics wrote postulated about a similar natural experiments that may be conducted following the forced prisoner release in California in Brown v. Plata. Notably,  Justice Alito’s dissent in Plata heavily relied on a natural experiment-prisoner release in Philadelphia in the early 1990s.