What’s It Cost to Live Near a Sex Offender?

About four percent of the value of your home. That’s what the economists Leigh Linden and Jonah Rockoff (both of Columbia University) concluded in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper called “There Goes the Neighborhood? Estimates of the Impact of Crime Risk on Property Values From Megan’s Law.” Here’s how the NBER Digest summarizes their findings:

They combine data from the housing market with data from the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry to find that when a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, houses within a one-tenth mile area around the sex offender’s home fall by 4 percent on average (about $5,500), while those further away show no decline in value. “These results suggest that individuals have a significant distaste for living in close proximity to a known sex offender,” the authors conclude.

I am well known for admiring economists, but even I have to admit that that last sentence is a little, um … obvious? More significantly, however: I wonder when, or if, homesellers will be routinely required to notify potential buyers of a nearby sex offender. Linden and Rockoff note that is already the case in some states, but I am guessing it is rare. On the other hand, it’s already pretty easy to search for registered sex offenders in a given neighborhood, so maybe this is just one more element of home-shopping that people will become accustomed to. Finally, I can imagine that if the Linden-Rockoff findings become common knowledge, it will make people scream even louder about having a registered sex offender placed in their neighborhoods.


Brian S.

Interesting - many people on S.O. lists are no danger to neighbors, e.g. a statutory rape offense from 3 decades earlier. This might give more people a reason to see those lists made more relevant.

zbicyclist

At first, I wondered how they could be so sure it was "sex offenders" rather than just crime in general -- wouldn't various types of crime be heavily correlated.

For the city of Chicago, there's a lovely mapping capability. For example, you can filter out and display the locations of homicides in the past X days:
http://www.chicagocrime.org/map/

Doing the same thing, but filtering on sex offenses, shows a much different pattern. This could be due to differences in enforcement, of course. But just looking at the map, I don't have nearly as much skepticism that the study's authors could find an effect.

This is a fascinating site. One of the interesting things about perusing this is how safe the loop (downtown) area is.

mathking

I have two kids and live in a neighborhood with a halfway house (about a quarter mile away) that typically has 3-4 registered sex offenders living there. It does make me more aware of who is hanging around when we're at the park and who might be walking around. A couple of observations.

First, I DO want to know the difference between sex offenses. I think that such information should be part of a database. A statutory rape conviction typically means consensual sex with a teenage minor too young to legally give consent. I am in no way condoning or minimizing statutory rape as a crime, but I do see a really big difference between say, an 18 year old convicted of having sex with his 15 year old girlfriend and a guy convicted of raping his 8 year old neice. The second person is much more likely to offend again and is much more likely to be a danger to my family.

The need for more information on sex offender lists is particularly true in a neighborhood where you get a half dozen or so notices from law enforcement every year about sex offenders moving into your neighborhood. It is easy to get a little blase about the notices. More information would make it easier to think about risk.

This brings me to deep concern about strategies used to insure that sex offenders not end up in "good neighborhoods." In our country, the perceived goodness of a neighborhood is correlated with the perceived wealth of the neighborhood. Such strategies typically mean sex offenders end up in POOR neighborhoods. Places where kids are the most vulnerable. Places where the offenders are most likely to find new victims. Places where the crimes are less likely to be reported, investigated, prosecuted and punished.

Read more...

sophistry

Fellow bloggers,
Is it feasible to have a strategy where sex offenders are hired and endowed with housing capital to live in rich neighborhoods (assuming the homeowner's association doesn't have any existing rules to prevent this)?
Once prices are sufficiently depressed, the houses are bought out and the sex offender is relocated elsewhere by "management". Then the houses are flipped for some profit.

I see two problems - contracting with the sex offenders so that there is no hold out problem and coordination problems with other individuals with the same strategy.

owenb

This tells us what it costs existing homeowners if a sex offender becomes a neighbor - they face a one-off captial loss on the value of their home. People who buy the house after the sex offender has moved in (and the house price has fallen) benefit from the lower price, so they are, on average, no worse off. They might even get a capital gain if the sex offender moves away.

leliathomas

I really don't think convicted sex offenders should have any rights, especially those who have committed sexual acts on children; those are the ones that bother me most. We need to stick a huge sign out in their yard, take away their right to vote, and make it hard for them to get jobs, so they don't end up in good neighborhoods where we [try to] keep our children and loved ones. I say this, because I have to wonder if the housing value would decrease with such measures. Personally, even if I had children, if I knew and I knew others in the neighborhood were entirely aware of where some dirt bag lived, I'd be more willing to live there. I think I and others would also be more willing to comfortably pay the actual value of the house (not that that's possible with the housing bubble, anyway) if we knew, for sure, that everyone was aware and on watch against certain people who have been previously convicted of sexual crimes. Just my opinion. In terms of the study, though, I think zbicyclist makes a point, too.

The problem is that society handles sex offenders in the same way that it handles most problems. It restricts its individuals of good behavior, but that never affects the lives of sex offenders. That's pretty stupid, when you get down to it.

Also, Brian, you act awfully nonchalant about a statutory rape, even if it was "three decades ago," as you gave for example. I'm sure the person who was raped would feel a bit differently, though, and the phrase "never say never" comes to mind whenever I hear people say, "Oh, they aren't dangerous anymore." It only takes one crime to change multiple lives forever, and you never know when someone who's previously done something will get the urge to do it again.

Read more...

StCheryl

I have a small child and am very interested in keeping him safe. However, I am skeptical of sex-offender registries, because they give people a false sense of security. The absence of a registered sex offender is NOT the same as the absence of a child predator. The recidivism rate for sexual predators is very high, and the cure rate is very low. If state law enforcement agencies are really concerned about the safety of their residents, then they should do a better job of keeping true sex offenders (NOT people who were convicted of consensual gay sex in a mens' room in the 1950s and are forever branded in the same way as pedophiles) away from children or the people they might prey on.

Skuds

There is another interesting possibility about this. If a person found out that a sex offender was living near them, but not on the register their natural inclination would be to notify whoever keeps the register up-to-date.

Is there now a slight incentive for homeowners to not make that notification? In most cases the notification would still be made, but if a homeowner was thinking about moving...

I seem to recall that the book dealt largely with incentives and here is a good example. TomHynes makes a good point, but for such an incentive to start having an effect it is enough for people to believe that there is a 5% effect whether its true or not. When that is not sensational enough, the media might start talking about 10%...

zxcvb

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julietD

I feel the need to speak only because my offender, my mother's second and ex-husband, was not required to register in his neighborhood as he was not convicted because mine was his first reported offense after years of his abuse, he was an upstanding citizen in the community, and he had a good lawyer.

Last year, in his new community where my mother still resides with her current husband, the deacon of the offender's church contacted my mother to ask her questions about his background because the offender was in such a position as to be a summer camp counselor to underage children.

The offender was, of course, denied any and all contact with the church's youth and he lost his front row seat in the church which he had established with his new family after 10 years.

This deacon was shocked there was no information on file about this offender even though, years ago prior to his current marriage I personally contacted the authorities in his community to alert them to his history. As far as they were concerned there was nothing they could do until a report hit their desk and since he had no prior conviction it was left in God's hands.

Participation in your children's lives and establishing trust in communication within the home and within your communities social circle is the best preventative measure any family can adopt, but you never really know who your neighbors are. There was no indication outside my home of origin to suggest there was anything but a perfect family behind it's doors.

Read more...

Graceswisdom

This is an interesting conversation, but not particularly realistic.

Here are some interesting observations:

1. Sex offense accusations rise during national or regional coverage of someone arraigned or convicted of a sex offense.

2. Most sex offenses occur within a family or relative circle. Particularly within step families. Also the person accused of a sex offense have themselves been victimized at some point in their lives.

3. With counseling and treatment the recidivism rates for someone convicted of a sex offense is between 3.3 to 10% ( 10% if the offense is outside of a family setting).

4. Compare this statistic with 50% for crimes such as drug dealing, robbery, assault and theft. A family member is more than likely to be approached for a drug deal, than a sex offense.

5. Political conversations mention sex offenders more often during election campaigns than during any other time of year.

6. Recidivism is less likely if the person is able to rebuild their lives with a stable job and a family life.

This does not dispute that socio and psychopaths exist (2-3% of the entire population), but rather the majority of offenders will never offend again.

In a study where I was the media co-researcher we focused on the effects of Megan's and other similar laws on the family members of those who must register because of their offense, we found the following to be true.

1. The spouse (usually male) lost their job and had difficulty finding another job.
2. If the family rented, they would lose their home in 6 months.
3. If the family owned their home they would be harassed to sell within 1 year.
4. Children of the family are harassed or must switch schools up to 4 times in one year.
5. If the wife's (usually) employer found out about the husband's conviction they would lose their job.
6. On the extreme there is a 2-3% chance a usually non-criminal citizen will commit the crime of assault or murder on someone convicted of a sex offense.

The immediate cost may be a reduction of your home value. The more far reaching cost is the flip side of victimization. Families are driven into poverty, into poor and dangerous sections of cities, similar to Jewish ghettos of World War II. Public registries prevent persons from obtaining decent housing and good jobs. Many persons with this conviction find prohibitive regulations from seeking a college degree or going to trade school, though studies show a direction positive correlation with higher education and reductions in criminal behavior.
The real problem in the United States is that 1 in 32 persons are either in prison, in jail or on probation (Dept. of Justice, 2007). They can not rebuild their lives when they return to society (which 97% of them return).

Why should you care? Because a society with a large permanent subclass is not a safe society.
In other words the quality of your life depends on the quality of your neighbors (however close or far away they are in your city).

We are asking the wrong questions in our society.
We need to ask why there are sex offenses, why is there a sudden increase in juvenile offenses and if registration itself does any good or does it give a false sense of safety while maintaining a "license to hate". We need to work on prevention and education. We need to teach boys and girls to respect each other, to eliminate sexism from our society to create communities where we know and interact with our neighbors and to bring those who have paid their debt to society back into the community in a healthy and safe manner.

If we choose to continue the paranoia and fear the real costs to our neighbors and society will be a dangerous disruption to our safety and democratic way of life.

Read more...

frozen

graces you may be right but i would put you in my position, 4 children (1 boy, 3 girls ages 10 to 17) and a kid filled private neighborhood. guess who moved in directly across the street with the elderly homeowner? a convicted sex offender, age 29, the homeowner's nephew. i guess i can no longer leave my kids at home alone after school if i have to go out, nor can they run free once spring arrives.

rich

I was convicted of downloading three illegal images almost 8 years ago. Since I've had to register I've lost my family, my career, etc. I dont expect pity from anyone. Truth is all I expect now is the hate I read and watch everyday. You cant imagine the absolute loneliness that comes with being labeled a creep, a monster, etc. This country has legistlated a despised subclass into existence and it is likely they will legistlate it out of existence one way or another, which is why I am moving far away before this happens. For what its worth I will mention that my journey has been truly enlightening but I wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy.

-- your neighbor

Brian S.

Interesting - many people on S.O. lists are no danger to neighbors, e.g. a statutory rape offense from 3 decades earlier. This might give more people a reason to see those lists made more relevant.

zbicyclist

At first, I wondered how they could be so sure it was "sex offenders" rather than just crime in general -- wouldn't various types of crime be heavily correlated.

For the city of Chicago, there's a lovely mapping capability. For example, you can filter out and display the locations of homicides in the past X days:
http://www.chicagocrime.org/map/

Doing the same thing, but filtering on sex offenses, shows a much different pattern. This could be due to differences in enforcement, of course. But just looking at the map, I don't have nearly as much skepticism that the study's authors could find an effect.

This is a fascinating site. One of the interesting things about perusing this is how safe the loop (downtown) area is.

mathking

I have two kids and live in a neighborhood with a halfway house (about a quarter mile away) that typically has 3-4 registered sex offenders living there. It does make me more aware of who is hanging around when we're at the park and who might be walking around. A couple of observations.

First, I DO want to know the difference between sex offenses. I think that such information should be part of a database. A statutory rape conviction typically means consensual sex with a teenage minor too young to legally give consent. I am in no way condoning or minimizing statutory rape as a crime, but I do see a really big difference between say, an 18 year old convicted of having sex with his 15 year old girlfriend and a guy convicted of raping his 8 year old neice. The second person is much more likely to offend again and is much more likely to be a danger to my family.

The need for more information on sex offender lists is particularly true in a neighborhood where you get a half dozen or so notices from law enforcement every year about sex offenders moving into your neighborhood. It is easy to get a little blase about the notices. More information would make it easier to think about risk.

This brings me to deep concern about strategies used to insure that sex offenders not end up in "good neighborhoods." In our country, the perceived goodness of a neighborhood is correlated with the perceived wealth of the neighborhood. Such strategies typically mean sex offenders end up in POOR neighborhoods. Places where kids are the most vulnerable. Places where the offenders are most likely to find new victims. Places where the crimes are less likely to be reported, investigated, prosecuted and punished.

Read more...

sophistry

Fellow bloggers,
Is it feasible to have a strategy where sex offenders are hired and endowed with housing capital to live in rich neighborhoods (assuming the homeowner's association doesn't have any existing rules to prevent this)?
Once prices are sufficiently depressed, the houses are bought out and the sex offender is relocated elsewhere by "management". Then the houses are flipped for some profit.

I see two problems - contracting with the sex offenders so that there is no hold out problem and coordination problems with other individuals with the same strategy.

owenb

This tells us what it costs existing homeowners if a sex offender becomes a neighbor - they face a one-off captial loss on the value of their home. People who buy the house after the sex offender has moved in (and the house price has fallen) benefit from the lower price, so they are, on average, no worse off. They might even get a capital gain if the sex offender moves away.

leliathomas

I really don't think convicted sex offenders should have any rights, especially those who have committed sexual acts on children; those are the ones that bother me most. We need to stick a huge sign out in their yard, take away their right to vote, and make it hard for them to get jobs, so they don't end up in good neighborhoods where we [try to] keep our children and loved ones. I say this, because I have to wonder if the housing value would decrease with such measures. Personally, even if I had children, if I knew and I knew others in the neighborhood were entirely aware of where some dirt bag lived, I'd be more willing to live there. I think I and others would also be more willing to comfortably pay the actual value of the house (not that that's possible with the housing bubble, anyway) if we knew, for sure, that everyone was aware and on watch against certain people who have been previously convicted of sexual crimes. Just my opinion. In terms of the study, though, I think zbicyclist makes a point, too.

The problem is that society handles sex offenders in the same way that it handles most problems. It restricts its individuals of good behavior, but that never affects the lives of sex offenders. That's pretty stupid, when you get down to it.

Also, Brian, you act awfully nonchalant about a statutory rape, even if it was "three decades ago," as you gave for example. I'm sure the person who was raped would feel a bit differently, though, and the phrase "never say never" comes to mind whenever I hear people say, "Oh, they aren't dangerous anymore." It only takes one crime to change multiple lives forever, and you never know when someone who's previously done something will get the urge to do it again.

Read more...

StCheryl

I have a small child and am very interested in keeping him safe. However, I am skeptical of sex-offender registries, because they give people a false sense of security. The absence of a registered sex offender is NOT the same as the absence of a child predator. The recidivism rate for sexual predators is very high, and the cure rate is very low. If state law enforcement agencies are really concerned about the safety of their residents, then they should do a better job of keeping true sex offenders (NOT people who were convicted of consensual gay sex in a mens' room in the 1950s and are forever branded in the same way as pedophiles) away from children or the people they might prey on.