American Sociological Association

Is There a “Ferguson Effect?” Google Searches, Concern about Police Violence, and Crime in U.S. Cities, 2014–2016

Between 2014 and 2016, the rate of homicide and other violent crime in the United States rose. One hypothesis discussed in the press and by some social scientists is that this increase was tied to political mobilization against police violence: As the Black Lives Matter movement gained support following protests in Ferguson, Missouri, perhaps police officers, worried about the new public mood, scaled back their law enforcement efforts, with crime as a consequence. In this article, we examine the association between public concern over police violence and crime rates using Google search measures to estimate the former. Analyzing data on 43 large U.S. cities, we find that violent crime was higher and rose more in cities where concern about police violence was greatest. We also find that measures of social inequality predict crime rates. We conclude by discussing the implications for future research on the “Ferguson effect” and beyond.

Authors

Neil Gross and Marcus Mann

Volume

3