Crime and Urban Flight Revisited: The Effect of the 1990s Drop in Crime on Cities

For most of the twentieth century, concerns about safety and high crime rates have beset U.S. cities. Researchers and policymakers pointed to these high urban crime rates as one of the chief ‘urban blights’ from which middle class, mobile (and typically white) households fled during the post-War period, fueling suburbanization. But this picture changed dramatically in the 1990s, a decade during which the crime rate in the U.S. fell by a remarkable thirty percent, and crime rates in many U.S. cities declined even further. This paper builds on the ‘flight from blight’ literature, and considers what effect (if any) the 1990s drop in crime rates had on urban population changes.