Below I report a Figure showing how the Murder Count has evolved over the last 20 years in center city Chicago. Why did murder soar in the late 1980s and fall so fast in the 1990s? Can legalized abortion explain these wild dynamics? Unleaded gasoline? Crack Cocaine? The 1990s economic boom? Michael Jordan and the Bulls winning those NBA titles? This picture is hard to read but the murder count peaks in the low 900s in 1991.
I don't think that I can answer those questions. Dan McMillen and I are starting a project where we examine another question. We know that murder is more likely to take place in poor minority communities. As the murder count has fallen, how much has quality of life in these communities improved? How much have home prices increased by in these communities? Have employers increased their hiring in these communities because of this increase in perceived safety?
Urban economists are well aware that urban safety is a key part of achieving an urban revival. But I don't think that we've done enough work fleshing out the core facts for major cities.