Working Paper 13/312 - abstract

Does Violent Crime Deter Physical Activity? (PDF, 2,041kB)

Katharina Janke, Carol Propper and Michael A. Shields

Crime has been argued to have important externalities. We investigate the relationship between violent crime and an important type of behaviour: individuals’ participation in their local area through walking and physical activity. We use a sample of nearly 1 million people residing in over 320 small areas in England between 2005 and 2011. We show that concerns about personal safety co-move with police recorded violent crime. To identify the causal effect of recorded violent crime on walking and other physical activity we control for individual-level characteristics, non-time varying local authority effects, national time effects and local authority-specific trends. In addition, we exploit a natural experiment that caused a sudden increase in crime – the 2011 England riots – to identify the causal impact of a large exogenous crime shock on physical activity in a triple difference framework. Our results show a substantive deterrent effect of local area violent crime on walking, pointing to important effects of violent crime on non-victims. The adverse effect of an increase in local area violent crime from the 25th to the 75th percentile on walking is equivalent in size to a 6 °C fall in average minimum temperature.