Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime

Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, Delaram Takyar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


Largely overlooked in the theoretical and empirical literature on the crime decline is a long tradition of research in criminology and urban sociology that considers how violence is regulated through informal sources of social control arising from residents and organizations internal to communities. In this article, we incorporate the “systemic” model of community life into debates on the U.S. crime drop, and we focus on the role that local nonprofit organizations played in the national decline of violence from the 1990s to the 2010s. Using longitudinal data and a strategy to account for the endogeneity of nonprofit formation, we estimate the causal effect on violent crime of nonprofits focused on reducing violence and building stronger communities. Drawing on a panel of 264 cities spanning more than 20 years, we estimate that every 10 additional organizations focusing on crime and community life in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 9 percent reduction in the murder rate, a 6 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 4 percent reduction in the property crime rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1214-1240
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • community
  • instrumental variables
  • nonprofits
  • systemic model
  • violence


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