This research examines the relationship between voting and crime at the Chicago neighborhood-level. It stems from my long-standing interest in demographics, urban crime, and voter behavior. I developed a fascincation with Chicago after visiting countless Chicago Public Schools as a Safe Routes ambassador in 2010. I usually travelled by bicycle, experiencing nearly every Chicago neighborhood up close. I later analyzed Chicago voting patterns in my work with the Mexican American Legal and Education Defense Fund (MALDEF) and became aware of the vast disparities in voter turnout over different parts of Chicago. My Master's thesis is an intersection of these diverse interests, and brings my interest in Chicago full-circle.
Research shows that voting is a socially-conforming behavior - in other words, people often vote because they perceive voting to be a social norm. Voting has also been linked to broader norm-govered behavior, such as participation in the U.S. census and other forms of civic engagement.
Knowing that voting can lead to more socially cooperative behavior, research has tried to address whether voting and crime are linked. Stephen Coleman (2004), in a county-level analysis, showed that crime rate is highest where voter turnout is near 50% - the point at which there is no conformity to the voting norm. The assumption is that if conformity to the voting norm is absent, broader norm-govered behavior like obeying the law will also be lacking.
I collected data on crime, demographics, and voter turnout, and used a neighborhood-level GIS analysis to examine the relationship between voter turnout and crime rate. I utilized traditional statistical approaches but also looked at the spatial patterns of the relationship between voting and crime using the spatial regression technique Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR).
You can view the entire thesis here.
A special thanks to my academic advisor, Dr. A-Xing Zhu for his guidance throughout this research.