A Quantitative & Economic Analysis of Crime, Policing & Race in a Time of Change

Caroline Li




Professor of Law, Business Economics and Public Policy

Project Summary

This summer, I worked with Professor David S. Abrams of The Wharton School and University of Pennsylvania Law School on several projects regarding the impact of the pandemic and BLM protests on crime rates in major US cities.

One of my major responsibilities was managing data collection from police stations to support the above projects. To this end, I had to contact police stations and file Freedom of Information Act requests through the state, and ensure that the data we received was in enough detail to be helpful to our research projects. One project I supported was data collection for a paper on police stops, where analysis revealed that decreases in the number of police stops conducted (a natural experiment because of the pandemic) resulted in a higher "hit rate", or percentage of stops that yielded results, either an arrest, contraband, or weapons found, for instance. Through this, I learned about the legal and regulatory structure of data collection for police stops, and also the difficulty in ensuring that police departments collected data in enough detail as to be able to allow researchers to assess their results.

Another of my major responsibilities was assisting data cleaning and data analysis through R and Stata. Through this, I gained an understanding of some of the statistical methods used to turn raw data into a form that was helpful for data analysis, and also ways to draw conclusions from data, including through regression on different variables, relating different trends in data, and visualizing trends.

Overall, I took a deep dive into the fascinating process where strategies used in economics could be applied across fields including law and crime analysis. I gained an understanding of the deep cooperation and the team effort it took to yield a good research paper. PURM gave me a great first look into the world of academia for economics, and it was an exciting opportunity to participate in a project that could have lasting impacts in the world of policing.

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: https://presentations.curf.upenn.edu/poster/covid-and-crime-rates-do-cop...