M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 8

Crime, Weather, and Climate Change

Matthew Ranson



This paper estimates the impact of climate change on the prevalence of criminal activity in the United States. The analysis is based on a panel of monthly crime, temperature, and precipitation data for 2,972 U.S. counties over the 50-year period from 1960 to 2009. I identify the effect of weather on monthly crime by using a semi-parametric bin estimator and controlling for county-by-month and county-by-year fixed effects. The results show that temperature has a strong positive effect on criminal behavior, with little evidence of lagged impacts. Under the IPCC's A1B climate scenario, the United States will experience an additional 35,000 murders, 216,000 cases of rape, 1.6 million aggravated assaults, 2.4 million simple assaults, 409,000 robberies, 3.1 million burglaries, 3.8 million cases of larceny, and 1.4 million cases of vehicle theft, compared to the total number of offenses that would have occurred between the years 2010 and 2099 in the absence of climate change. The present discounted value of the social costs of these climate-related crimes is between 20 and 68 billion dollars.

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