Skip to:
  1. Main navigation
  2. Main content
  3. Footer
Press Release

Demolishing large public housing developments--and the associated deconcentration of poverty--reduces violent crime

In many cities, large public housing developments are being torn down. Part of the rationale for doing so is that it will eliminate areas of concentrated poverty and reduce some of the problems associated with it, such as high levels of crime.

While critics have argued that these programs simply displace crime to other parts of the city, several studies have suggested otherwise. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland researchers Daniel Hartley and Dionissi Aliprantis add to this body of research with a study of the effects of Chicago’s program to demolish its public housing developments. The researchers find that by relocating recipients of housing aid throughout more of the city, overall levels of violent crime were lowered, while property crime levels were less affected.

According to Hartley and Aliprantis, the demolitions are associated with a reduction in homicides in the high-rise blocks and in those nearby (within 0.5 miles) equivalent to about 7.5 percent of the total number of homicides in the city of Chicago in 1991. Furthermore, the researchers say there is no detectable increase in homicides in and near the blocks to which the former high-rise households relocated.

The reduction in assault and battery associated with the demolitions is equivalent to about 4.5 percent of the citywide total in and near the high-rise blocks, but there is also about a 2 percent increase associated with the arrival of relocated households in and near their new blocks. On net, the demolitions are associated with about a 2.5 percent reduction in assault and battery, citywide.

In contrast, the roughly 2 percent drop in burglary in and near the high-rise blocks is offset by a 2 percent increase in burglary in and near the blocks in which the former high-rise households relocated. The net effect on non-auto theft is a small (1 percent) reduction, while the demolitions have no impact on auto theft.

The researchers note that the fact that there is a measureable increase in some types of crime associated with the arrival of displaced high-rise households does not necessarily mean that they are committing the crime; crime may also rise because those households are more likely to be victims of crime.

Hartley and Aliprantis say their results show that higher concentrations of poverty are associated with more crime and suggest that programs or incentives that result in greater integration of poor and nonpoor households may reduce violent crime.

Read Public Housing, Concentrated Poverty, and Crime

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.218.1892